What causes thumb arthritis?

What causes thumb arthritis?
What causes thumb arthritis?

What causes thumb arthritis is a common question we get as physical therapists.

Thumb arthritis, also known as basal joint arthritis or first carpometacarpal (CMC) joint arthritis, typically occurs due to a combination of factors.

What causes thumb arthritis includes:

  1. Aging:
    • Thumb arthritis is more common in older adults.
    • Over time, the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in the thumb joint may wear away, leading to arthritis.
  2. Genetics:
    • Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing thumb arthritis.
    • If you have a family history of arthritis or joint problems, you may be at a higher risk.
  3. Overuse or Repetitive Motion:
    • Frequent and repetitive use of the thumb joint can contribute to wear and tear, leading to arthritis.
    • This is often seen in people with jobs or hobbies that involve a lot of thumb motion.
    • This can also been seen with long periods of time using smartphones.
  4. Weakness:
    • A lack of strength in pinch strength, especially grip and key pinch, is an important feature in the pathogenesis of early thumb arthritis.
  5. Trauma or Injury:
    • A previous injury to the thumb joint, such as a fracture or dislocation, can increase the risk of developing thumb arthritis in the affected joint.
  6. Gender:
    • Thumb arthritis is more common in women than in men.
  7. Other Medical Conditions:
    • Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, can increase the risk of developing arthritis in multiple joints, including the thumb.
  8. Obesity:
    • Excess body weight can put extra stress on the thumb joint, potentially accelerating the development of arthritis.

Patients with thumb arthritis typically have weakness on the affected hand when pinching, grasping, or twisting objects.

They can provide a diagnosis and discuss treatment options, which may include medications, physical therapy, splints, or, in severe cases, surgery to alleviate pain and improve function.


Physical therapists can discuss health exercise programs for you but more specifically, we can help if you have a weak or painful grip. A systematic approach of proper testing to determine impairments, then manual therapy and muscular re-training is usually necessary to get better.

At PhysioFit of NC, we have the expert team in musculoskeletal conditions to help you to the fullest.

We provide a comprehensive treatment approach through our Grip Strength Program.  This includes manual therapy and exercises to improve finger and hand mobility and wrist stability. The primary goal of treatment is to address the underlying muscular imbalance issues and strength deficits causing impaired grip.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today so we can help you!