Compare the options

This table compares the different treatment options. 

  Education Pain medication Splint Cortisone injection Surgery
What is usually involved? Understand the disease as a normal part of aging to which many if not most people adapt.

Acetaminophen/
paracetamol or aspirin-type medications (e.g. ibuprofen, naproxen).

An off-the shelf or custom fitted support for the base of the thumb. Injection of corticosteroid into the joint.

Surgery changes the joint, by removing a small bone from the base of the thumb. Sometimes a tendon or implant are used as well.
Restrictions after surgery vary depending on how the surgery is performed.
Full recovery takes 6 to 12 months.

What are the results? It’s easier to adapt to thumb arthritis when you know it’s expected and that it’s safe to use the thumb even though it hurts. Some patients have less pain. Some patients have less pain. Studies show little or no benefit on average.

About 85% of patients are satisfied with surgery.
There are no clear benefits to a specific technique.

What are the benefits? Avoid the discomfort, inconvenience, costs, and risks of other treatment options. Potential for less pain. Potential for less pain. Potential for less pain.

Most patients experience less pain after surgery.
Strength does not generally improve.

What are the risks and limitations?

No risks.
Some people find it difficult to adapt to arthritis.

There is a slight risk of serious disease with regular use of these medications.
Pain relief lasts several hours at best.

No risks
A splint can be cumbersome.

There is a risk of skin changes, particularly with repeat injections. There is a very small risk of infection.
Pain relief lasts several months at best.

There is a small risk of infection, bleeding, stiffness, nerve injury, or anesthetic problems.
It can take 6 to 12 months to recover.
Some people benefit from surgery, some do not.