Severe osteoarthritis thumbs

Chippy Member Posts: 3
edited 28. Nov 2023, 14:10 in Living with arthritis

Hi folks

So what I had hoped was a side effect of renal cancer which I am awaiting an operation for turns out to be. "Severe osteoarthritis in the base of both thumbs.'"

Bit of a blow as I am a self employed carpenter, though at the moment not able to work because of the cancer and the pain in my hands.

Not been the best year so far 😂

Anyway I wondered if anyone else had the same diagnosis and if they found anything to help.

I had been wearing thumb spica wrist braces, but I am not sure if they are a good idea, I don't want my joints to sieze up and I find them uncomfortable.

My work and all of my hobbies (sea and lure fishing, restoring motorcycles) require hand strength and dexterity so I am very worried


  • Trish9556
    Trish9556 Member Posts: 390
    edited 25. May 2023, 03:19

    Hi @Chippy

    I had a trapeziectomy on my left thumb back in 2020 and was in horrendous pain fir years prior to that. As a PA using a keyboard it also impacted my life but not as bad as it is yours .

    Hot and cold work- I used to use so many hot hands or little hotties I bought then in bulk off that well known online shop. They're little sachets if magic that are air activated and fit nicely into your hand so you can squeeze them or shove them inside a glove. One lasts about 12 hours and get really quite hot. You can buy them in chemists and other shops but they're only in a pack of two

    Cold works well if you alternate with heat either simply running under cold water, into a jug of iced water or I found a brilliant freeze spray in pound shops or similar that was a lot cheaper than premium products. You would need somebody to spray it onto the thumb and wrist area of your non dominant hand.

    Don't waste money on geks or creams unless you apply them as you gi to bed and wear a glove as well so you don't get it on your face, eyes or other areas. A compression glove would be ideal overnight. We are constantly washing our hands so it's a pointless exercise applying it during the day.

    Splints are good but don't wear them all the time otherwise your thumbs will hurt more when you take them off. I found the smaller ones that basically only cover round your wrist, across the palm and up the thumb were the best, not the ones that went halfway up your arms and encase most if your fingers! I think mine were by a company called actesso or something like that from the online shop. Mine were quite comfy and worked well enabling me to type and use my fingers whilst supporting my thumb. Buy a couple for each hand once you find ones that work. Best if you can get the designated left/right hand ones

    Don't be too proud to ask someone to cut your food up and ljust use your fork or fingers to eat. You've probably already experienced how hard and painful it is to cut food using a knife and fork. I found being in restaurants terribly embarrassing to start with as my husband took my plate and handed it back all cut up into small pieces. I got used to it

    Hold cups/pints etc in both hands to spread the weight. Let hot drinks cool a bit so you don't burn yourself if you drop them. If you're not already dropping stuff you probably will as time goes by.

    Use a jug to fill your kettle.

    Use a pen thing with a rubber bit on the end for using your phone/touchscreens so you don't have to hold them.

    Ask for help lifting large planks/bits of wood if you can.

    Nag your Dr for a referral for surgery/physio

    If you're having injections make sure you insist in having guided injections using either ultrasound or x-ray - had one done freehand and passed out in pain about an hour afterwards.

    You'll soon find ways round doing things please give me a shout if you need any help

    Love n huga


  • Moira
    Moira Member Posts: 71

    If you can see an OT or physio that will really, really help. I'm awaiting ops for both hands. I use splint when necessary - not overnight. But you need to get the correct ones. I have a friend who is using the wrong ones - meant for carpel tunnel - and they are doing no good. I have ones the OT gave me and also made custom made ones to fit me (didn't cost as it was through NHS). Insist on a referal to you local hospital hand clinic.

    I have found the OT exercises and the orthopaedic putty really good (you can use plasticene instead). I can use it and get the necessary exercise even when watching TV.

    It is frustrating as normally I do goldwork embroidery and other complex embroidery. Using my lap top is OK though. Can't play the guitar or piano properly now and gave up my Renaisence recorders several years ago. I use 2 hands when doing things, although I drop and smashed a mug yesterday because I didn't!

    My specialist gave me steroid injections which really help (didn't pass out!). They were targeted right into the site.

    I think there may be hand exercises on the Versus Arthritis website, check them out. Exercise done often and gently is the best way to keep moving.

    Good luck.

  • noddingtonpete
    noddingtonpete Moderator Posts: 826

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  • EleanorJP
    EleanorJP Member Posts: 8

    Hi Chippy - I’m in a similar position with thumbs affecting my ability to work - you have my sympathy. My job also requires a high level of manual dexterity and I have struggled over last 18 months. I was given thumb spica splint by surgeon but told not to wear it all the time so muscles don’t waste, and only through the day, the idea to try and stabilise the joint. I found this uncomfortable at first.

    I also had reasonable adjustments put in place and have reduced my hours too. I was referred to occupational health and was lucky enough to be assessed by physio who works in the hand clinic with the surgeon I see. She arranged to see me and made some splints that I can use when I’m doing clinical work (I’m NHS). This has meant I’ve been able to muddle along a bit longer.

    A recent steroid injection hasn’t worked for me unfortunately and my GP prescribed capsaicin cream for me - however I’ve not been able to get this yet due to supply issues so no idea if it will help. Back to see surgeon in a couple of weeks, I’m not sure what next steps will be - possibly trapeziectomy?

    I find I modify how I do things and use my hands in different ways outside of work, not so easy at work. I’ve bought a chopper to help with food prep, often use scissors to open packets and my husband sometimes cuts up my food. Packed lunches are well planned so I don’t have to ask colleagues for help! Got to say my colleagues are really good - they’ll swop around so I can see easier, less challenging patients if at all possible.

    I’m not sure I’m much help but you are not alone. Everything I enjoy and want to do, involves using my hands. Reading other people’s experiences on this group has been helpful with ideas to get by and outcomes of surgery etc. I was very anxious that trapeziectomy might adversely affect my dexterity but after reading what other people have said, I am more hopeful.

    All the best


  • Orchid_01
    Orchid_01 Member Posts: 3

    My hands have recently become very painful and sore. My Rheumatologist says I have OA now alongside my RA. My joints are in so much pain. I’m leaving messages for the Rheumatology OT to contact me and they’re not being answered. This was never the case with my OT who retired last year. The MCP joint of my right forefinger is agony and won’t bend. I’m struggling with everything because I am right handed.