Thumb Carpometacarpal (CMC) Arthritis

What Is Thumb CMC Arthritis?

Thumb CMC arthritis can occur from wear and tear or may follow an injury of the joint. Arthritis is the loss of cartilage (cushioning material) between the bones, resulting in bone-on-bone contact. Loss of this cartilage results in pain, and range of motion is sometimes limited. In severe cases, the joint may become unstable, resulting in a bony “bump” at the base of the thumb.


  • Pain at the base of the thumb/wrist
  • Pinch and grip weakness
  • Inability to open jars


There are nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available for thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) arthritis. Both treatment types are performed by our hand and wrist specialist at Orthopaedic Specialists. 

Nonsurgical Treatments

Mild cases of thumb CMC arthritis may be treated with splinting of the thumb, avoiding aggravating activities such as pinching, anti-inflammatories, therapy, and/or cortisone injections. While nonsurgical treatment can relieve mild cases of the condition, surgery may be necessary if it continues to worsen.

Surgical Treatments

The older traditional CMC open surgery is also known as LRTI, which stands for ligament reconstruction tendon interposition. LRTI requires an open incision and removal of the entire trapezium bone. Then, a second incision is made to remove a tendon from the arm. This tendon is used to fill the gap left by the removed bone. A splint is typically applied for 4 – 6 weeks.