Thumbs are an essential part of your hands and our language. On the positive side, a "green thumb" is a good thing. And "opposable thumbs" -- well, they're what differentiates you from other animals that cannot grasp or manipulate objects well. Just try writing your name, tying your shoelaces or hitching a ride without using your very agile thumb! But "sticking out like a sore thumb"? You don't want that.
Unfortunately, for many women (10 to 20 times as many as men) age 40 and older, thumb arthritis makes the basal joint at the bottom of the thumb swell and hurt, sometime severely. This form of osteoarthritis can happen because of overuse and stress from hobbies or a job; diseases that affect cartilage, such as rheumatoid arthritis; and obesity, which triggers inflammatory reactions that can damage tissue and bone.
If you've got sore thumbs (they usually come in pairs), you don't want to twiddle them!
-- You can opt for wearing a brace, using heat and ice packs, oral medications or corticosteroid injections, or get off-label hyaluronic acid injections. (Although approved for arthritic knees, the Food and Drug Administration hasn't given the thumbs-up for thumbs.)
-- ASU (avocado/soybean unsaponifiable) supplements sometimes work.
-- There are two surgeries: One fuses the joint, easing pain but limiting mobility. Another removes a bone from the base of the joint and reroutes a tendon to provide a cushion and stability.
Nothing guarantees you'll regain full mobility, and physical/occupational therapy is essential, but all three approaches ease constant pain and may make you able to hitchhike again!
(c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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