What is Arthritis and What Can I Do About It?

by Athletico1 Comment

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month. But what exactly is arthritis? What causes the pain and how can I fix it? Arthritis refers to the degradation of a joint surface causing inflammation within the joint. Athletico Physical Therapy is proud to support Arthritis Awareness Month as a proud partner of the Arthritis Foundation.

There are two main types of arthritis:  rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is defined as an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation in the joints, especially the small joints of the hands and feet.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, caused when the protective cartilage on the ends of the bones wears away over time. Arthritis can develop in any joint in the body, but is often seen in load bearing joints such as the hip and knee, and small joints such as the hand and wrist from repetitive use.

arthritis awareness month athletico physical therapyWhy is my thumb hurting every time I grip or pinch?

It may be osteoarthritis at the base of the thumb, also known as basal joint arthritis. The joint at the base of the thumb that allows for pivoting and swivel motions is also a common place for adults to develop arthritis. It is designed as a saddle joint, allowing for a lot of motion, therefore being susceptible to wearing out.

As the cartilage in this joint diminishes, the bones rub directly onto one another, causing significant pain. This happens more frequently in women, however many men are also afflicted with this pain.  Studies indicate that the CMC joint of the thumb is the second most common joint in the hand to be affected by osteoarthritis (Wilder FV, 2006).

What can I do about it?

Therapeutic interventions may be helpful in reducing pain and increasing function while performing everyday activities. Hand therapists can custom mold orthotics to improve positioning of the thumb and aid in supporting the thumb during pinching and gripping activities at work or at home.

Studies indicate there is evidence to support that thumb CMC orthotics have significant effects on function and pain for persons with thumb CMC OA (Virginia H. O’Brien, 2011). Hand therapists can also provide therapeutic modalities and strengthening activities to reduce pain and increase function. For more severe cases, surgery may be indicated. Following surgery, a hand therapist can provide acustom orthosis to allow for healing and can instruct in exercises to facilitate a full return of motion in the thumb and overall strength in the affected hand.

Click to Request an Appointment Today

Schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained therapists today, and visit the Arthritis Foundation website for more tips on arthritis.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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1 Comment

  1. Therese Murphy

    Would have been beneficial to state what CMC stands for, although I followed the link to the Arthritis Foundation to find out.

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