Basal Joint Arthritis Exercises
Basal joint arthritis occurs when the cartilage covering the bone on the base of your thumb deteriorates, causing the bones and joints to to grate against each other. The condition, also known as carpal metacarpal, affects one in four women and one in 12 men, reports the University of Washington Hand Center's website. Gentle thumb exercises and stretching may alleviate arthritis symptoms, which include stiffness, limited mobility and pain.
In and Out and Thumb Slide
The “in and out” and “thumb slide” exercises increase the thumb's range of motion.
First, sit down in a comfortable position and lift your hand in front of your body and turn your palm inward. Slide your thumb across your palm, toward your little finger. Bend at the base of your thumb to increase the movement and then lift your thumb toward the ceiling, straightening and extending it as high as you can.
Next, keep your palm facing inward and rest your thumb on your palm, directly next to your index finger. Maintaining a straight thumb, move it away from your palm, as far as possible. Return your thumb to the start position, relax and repeat.
The University of Washington Medicine Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine website recommends doing three to 10 repetitions of each exercise, one or two times a day.
Thumb Walk and Thumb Roll
The “thumb walk” and the "thumb roll" exercises increases your thumb's mobility while requiring it to move through a large range of motion.
Sit comfortably, lift your hand and turn your palm so that if faces up. Straighten your wrist and touch your thumb to your first fingertip and form the letter “o.” Release and touch your thumb to your second fingertip and form another “o.” Continue this pattern with each fingertip. After you finish, straighten and spread your thumb and fingers.
To do the "thumb roll," turn your palm so that it faces you and spread your fingers. Straighten your thumb and move it across your palm, toward your index finger. Maintaining a straight thumb and index finger, touch your thumb to the tip of your index finger.You may need to move your index finger slightly to accommodate this. Return both to the start position and repeat.
The UW Medicine Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine recommends doing three to 10 repetitions of each exercise, one or two times a day.
This stretch relaxes and lengthens the muscles, ligaments and joints surrounding your thumb. Increases in flexibility may ease the symptoms of basal joint arthritis.
Lift your hand in front of you, turn your palm inward and extend your fingers toward the ceiling, while pointing your thumb toward you. Gently extend your thumb away from your fingers, stretching your thumb. If this causes no pain, use your other hand to pull your thumb a bit further and increase the stretch.
The UW Medicine Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine recommends doing three to 10 repetitions of this exercise, one or two times a day.
- Hospital for Special Surgery: Basal Joint Arthritis: How Therapy Can Help
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Arthritis of the Thumb
- University Corporation for Atmospheric Research: Stretches
- "The Arthritis Helpbook"; Kate Lorig, R.N.; 2006
- American Society for Surgery of Hand. Thumb Arthritis.
- Anakwe RE, Middleton SD. Osteoarthritis at the base of the thumb. BMJ. 2011;343:d7122. doi:10.1136/bmj.d7122
Judy Bruen is a private certified personal trainer and wellness coach. She holds dual master's degrees from Boston College in clinical social work and pastoral ministry. She currently works with individuals on fitness, health and lifestyle goals.