Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Thumb
Thumb arthritis involves inflammation of the basal joint, which is the joint that allows the thumb to swivel and pivot. It is also called the thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. There are many types of basal joint arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis in the basal joint occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joint begins to deteriorate. Swelling and pain develop as the bones rub against each other. The ligaments eventually weaken as they try to overcompensate for the lack of cartilage. The synovial tissue that lines the joint capsules can also become inflamed, leading to fluid accumulation in the joint. Again, pain and swelling and decreased mobility are the results.
With rheumatoid arthritis, the effects are the same, but the causes are slightly different. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the body produces antibodies to attack the synovial tissue lining the joint capsule. This leads to chronic inflammation in the joint. This chronic inflammation then leads to ligament weakness, because, again, the ligaments are over compensating for the weak and deteriorated tissue. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis of the thumb have the same effect: a weakening of the connective tissues within the basal joint.
What causes thumb arthritis?
Osteoarthritis of the thumb is caused by structural weakness within the hand. When ligaments in the thumb are weak, the thumb has to work harder in order to perform daily functions. This extra work leads to a deterioration of the cartilage within the basal joint, because the bones are moving more. The deterioration of cartilage causes inflammation, which only leads to ever weaker ligaments. The whole cycle repeats itself, worsening each time. Rheumatoid arthritis of the thumb has a variation of causes, which can be found through natural medicine testing.
What are the symptoms of thumb arthritis?
As mentioned, thumb arthritis leads to pain and swelling due to chronic inflammation. The pain and the swelling often result in a loss of pinch and grip strength. The pain is usually focused at the base of the thumb, but can often be felt within the entire thumb. The pain increases over time, while grip and pinch strength decrease over time. Conventional medical treatments may help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis but they do not address the root of the problem. By strengthening structural weaknesses in the body like Prolotherapy does, and by undergoing comprehensive natural medicine testing, the root of the problem may be found and treated.
To read the thumb arthritis study mentioned by Dr. Hauser click here.
Traditional Medicine’s Response to Thumb Arthritis
Traditional medicine focuses on alleviating the symptoms of thumb arthritis, as opposed to fixing the problem. Traditional doctors typically recommend icing the joint for 5-15 minutes per day, NSAIDs, and wearing a splint or brace that supports the thumb. All of these methods simply work at alleviating the symptoms, not fixing the problem. If the symptoms are not being alleviated effectively enough by doing nothing to fix the problem and the patient is still in pain, joint reconstruction surgery is often recommended. Surgery tends to fall into one of two categories. The first is called arthrodesis. Arthrodesis fuses the basal joint together. It does take away the problem of swelling and pain due to inflammation in the joint, but it does so by effectively taking away the joint. The basal joint is responsible for pivoting and swivel motions, which allow to hand to pinch and grip things. Arthodesis decreases the thumb’s ability to move, which does not allow the hand to pinch or grip as well.
The second type of surgery is arthroplasty. Arthroplasty is joint reconstruction, using other materials to replace the body’s damaged tissues. With the thumb, the most common type of these surgeries has three steps. The first is to remove the trapezium bone. Then a tendon graft is used to maintain the space and connection the trapezium bone maintained with a tendon graft. Finally, another tendon graft is used to cushion the bones. Some surgeons also hold the bones in place with a temporary steel pin.
These surgeries help four out of five people, but one out of five will then develop another problem. The “help” is only a reduction of pain; surgery does not usually strengthen grip or pinch strength.
Prolotherapy for thumb pain
Prolotherapy stimulates the regrowth of cartilage. It also strengthens the ligaments around the thumb so that the cartilage does not continue to deteriorate. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis of the thumb, Prolotherapy strengthens the weak structures around the thumb and natural medicine testing helps to identify the cause of the autoimmune disorder. Prolotherapy doesn’t just get rid of pain, it gets rid of the cause of pain. It is not just a way to cover up pain, it is a way to fix it.
Dr. Hauser’s research on Prolotherapy for Thumb Pain which published in the Journal of Prolotherapy