Summer Fun in RecoveryThe thumb is an integral part of the human body. It allows us to perform daily activities we barely think about, like writing, holding objects, and more. Unfortunately, due to age or injury, the thumb joint can become damaged, causing chronic pain that can interfere with your quality of life.

Sometimes, damaged thumb joints even require surgery for repair. Traditionally, this type of surgery requires multiple incisions which can lead to greater discomfort and recovery time for the patient.

That’s why Dr. Mark Yaffe is proud to offer single-incision thumb joint arthroplasty, a revolutionary approach to repairing these damaged joints with minimal incisions and maximum comfort for the patient. Using only one small incision, he can access the joint directly and perform surgery in less time than ever before.

Keep reading to learn more about the thumb joint, how chronic thumb joint pain happens, and how Dr. Yaffe's single-incision approach can help you get back to your life faster.

Understanding the Thumb Joints

The thumb joint, or carpometacarpal (CMC) joint, is a pivotal connection in the human body that allows us to perform many of our everyday activities. It's located at the base of the thumb and connects the thumb metacarpal bone – the long bone that bridges the palm of your hand to the thumb – and the carpal bones, which are located in your wrist.

This joint allows you to move your thumb with strength, precision, and grace. It is also responsible for helping the other fingers with gripping and manipulating small objects.

Due to its importance to thumb function, when something goes wrong at this joint, life can become extremely uncomfortable as you deal with severe pain in the area.

Top Causes of CMC Joint Pain

The most common cause of CMC joint pain is a bone disease called osteoarthritis, which results when the protective cartilage that lines the ends of the bones breaks down. As this happens, the surfaces of these bones become exposed and can rub against each other, leading to chronic pain.

Other causes include thumb fractures. A broken bone associated with the CMC joint isn't just an acute, short-term problem -- a thumb fracture can lead to chronic pain due to misalignment, instability, and even arthritis.

CMC joint trauma from sports accidents or other injuries -- such as a sprained thumb -- can also lead to chronic pain when the joint becomes damaged. In the case of a thumb injury, it's important to seek medical attention right away to prevent long-term pain or complications.

Nonsurgical Treatment for CMC Pain

CMC joint issues don't always require surgery to address the pain and swelling. In many cases, the following nonsurgical treatments can help reduce pain, stiffness, and other symptoms:

  • Rest: Taking a break from activities that involve the thumb joint can help reduce pain and inflammation. 
  • Ice/Heat Therapy: Applying ice packs or heat therapy to the affected area can help reduce swelling and provide temporary pain relief. 
  • Medication: NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and other pain relievers can help reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort. 
  • Splints: Splinting the thumb can provide stability and extra cushioning for sore joints. 
  • CMC Joint Injections: Steroid injections can help reduce inflammation and pain. 
  • Physical Therapy: Doing specific exercises with the thumb joint can help improve motion and reduce pain. 

When is Surgery Necessary?

In some cases, nonsurgical treatment options are not enough to reduce pain. If your thumb joint does not respond to any of the treatments above, surgery may be the right option for you.

Surgery is likely the best option for you if:

  • You experience severe pain despite nonsurgical treatments 
  • Your thumb joint is severely misaligned, unstable, or broken 
  • The bones of your joints are badly damaged from arthritis 

Single-Incision CMC Arthroplasty: The Gold-Standard Solution

Dr. Yaffe's single-incision thumb joint arthroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure designed to reduce pain, correct misalignment, and improve the function of the thumb joint. He utilizes it as his standard thumb surgery for arthritis patients.

Performed as an outpatient procedure at Schaumburg Surgery Center, this 45-minute surgery involves a single incision without the need to cut any tendon structures, leading to faster recovery and less postoperative pain. Dr. Yaffe's unique technique removes the arthritic trapezium bone before transferring an adjacent tendon slip (APL) to support the base of the thumb.

Widely considered the 'gold standard' for thumb arthritis treatment, this technique has been shown to produce the most reliable long-term outcomes of all available procedures. Following the procedure, your thumb will be padded and placed in a splint, allowing for light daily activities, and restriction from heavy lifting for 6-8 weeks after surgery until the splint is discontinued.

As part of Dr. Yaffe's comprehensive approach, you'll work with Certified Hand Therapists to regain your range of motion and strength. However, many patients require little therapy post-surgery and quickly return to their normal daily routines.

Visit the Top Thumb Doctor Near You

With Dr. Yaffe's single-incision thumb CMC arthroplasty, you can rest assured that relief from thumb arthritis is just a simple outpatient procedure away. To find out more about the procedure and to receive a personalized treatment plan, contact Dr. Yaffe's office today for a consultation.

Get back on the road to pain-free hands with Greater Chicago's top upper extremity specialist. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Mark Yaffe at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists today.