Steroid Injection and Splinting for Thumb Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) at the base of the thumb can be very disabling. Pain and decreased motion result in loss of function. Even the simplest task can become impossible. In this study doctors at Washington University in St. Louis looked at the use of steroid injection and splinting for this problem.

Researchers used a single injection of a steroid drug into the basal thumb joint of 30 patients. A special thumb splint was worn for three weeks after the injection. Patient's pain, strength, and function were measured at six weeks, 12 weeks, 12 months, and 18 months after the treatment.

The authors report that the best results occurred in patients with mild thumb OA. The more severe the OA, the less likely patients would get pain relief that lasted. With decreased pain, there was increased strength and improved function. Anyone who didn't get better from the injection by six weeks didn't improve later.

This study shows good results in early thumb OA by combining a single steroid injection with splinting. Surgery may be a better treatment option if X-rays already show bone spurs or narrowing of the joint space.
Charles S. Day, MD, et al. Basal Joint Osteoarthritis of the Thumb: A Prospective Trial of Steroid Injection and Splinting. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. March 2004. Vol. 29A. No. 2. Pp. 247-251.