What is Basilar Joint Arthritis?

Basilar joint arthritis, also sometimes called thumb arthritis, is the result of the wearing away of cartilage in the joint at the base of the thumb. Without the cushioning mechanism of this cartilage, the joints will grind over each other when the thumb moves, causing further joint damage. The most common causes of basilar joint arthritis include wear and tear of the hand and injury to the thumb.

Common signs and symptoms of thumb arthritis include:

Hand stiffness and pain: One of the most common signs of basilar joint arthritis is pain, stiffness, and tenderness at the base of your thumb.

Decreased range of motion and strength: Inflammation and discomfort can cause your hand to lose both strength and range of motion. This can become obvious when you try to pinch or clasp an object tightly, such as opening a jar or using buttons or zippers.

Changes in appearance: Your thumb may appear swollen, particularly at the base, and a bony bump may develop. One obvious sign is an improper alignment of the joint as it shifts, affecting the joint above the base and creating a bent-back appearance (hyperextension).

Non-Surgical Treatments

Non-surgical treatment options to help alleviate discomfort include avoiding clenching your hands and repetitive movements that involve pinching when you can. Over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications, or prescription corticosteroids may also be helpful for relieving pain and reducing inflammation. Splints can also provide temporary support for the thumb and wrist.


In cases where non-surgical treatment options are not enough, surgery may be an option. A surgeon can speak with you regarding your treatment options during a consultation appointment. While basilar joint arthritis surgery is an outpatient procedure, it will take time to regain range of motion and strength.

I would recommend to anybody that needs hand therapy.


Schedule a Consultation

Portland plastic surgeons Dr. Keith C. Neaman, Dr. Pete Tsai, and Dr. Dustin Christiansen have extensive training and experience in the treatment of basilar joint arthritis. To schedule your personal consultation, please call Neaman Hand Surgery at 844-338-5445. There are numerous non-surgical and surgical options to help provide pain relief and increased strength.

Accessibility: If you are vision-impaired or have some other impairment covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act or a similar law, and you wish to discuss potential accommodations related to using this website, please contact our Accessibility Manager at 971-701-6847.

Contact Us