Chiropractic treatments could improve symptoms in patients with thumb arthritis, according to new research. Thumb arthritis, also known as secondary carpometacarpal osteoarthritis or CMC OA, is the most common form of arthritis affecting the hands. As the cartilage is worn down with age, it causes swelling, pain, weakness, and decreased range of motion in the joints of the hands.
A recent case series analyzed the effects of a specific chiropractic treatment on pain sensitivity, pain intensity, and joint function experienced by elderly participants with thumb arthritis. Researchers tested the efficacy of a chiropractic technique known as passive joint mobilization which involves passive movements of the joint performed within the physiological range. The study included fifteen patients between the ages of 70 and 90 with CMC OA. All patients received passive joint mobilization therapy of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist for 4 sessions over 2 weeks. Throughout the study, the participants’ pain severity and pain sensitivity levels were measured.
Passive joint manipulation was found to decrease pain sensitivity and improve joint function and strength immediately following treatment. After the first follow-up, pain severity was reduced by an average of 30%. Patients also experienced increased hand strength by an average of 18%. The data suggests a lasting effect of treatment on patients with CMC OA.
This case study provides initial evidence that chiropractic joint mobilization could improve the symptoms of patients with thumb arthritis. Additional studies have also shown that chiropractic treatments may help patients suffering from other forms of osteoarthritic pain in the knee and hip.
Villafañe JH, Silva GB, and Chiarotto A. Effects of passive upper extremity joint mobilization on pain sensitivity and function in participants with secondary carpometacarpal osteoarthritis: a case series. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2012; 35(9): 735-42.