Rhizarthrosis is a type of arthrosis, caused by the consumption of the articulation located at the base of the thumb. Doctor Alberto Lazzerini, Supervisor of Hand Surgery at Humanitas, spoke about this in an interview for Rai Radio 1’s programme “Life”.

“Rhizarthrosis is a type of arthrosis that affects the articulation located at the base of the thumb. It is really unsteady and works in mechanically disadvantageous conditions. Thus, rhizarthrosis has a mechanical cause. Its presence does not imply a widespread arthrosis.

It is very frequent and more so, among women. Being a degenerative ailment, it is more common among people older than 40 and it tends to worsen with aging”.

What are the Symptoms?

“Those who suffer from it, feel a light pain that initially only manifests itself after an exertion. Then, if the rhizarthrosis worsens, it becomes more severe, frequent and constant. This is a very crippling disease, because it limits the movements of the thumb and lessens its strength. In fact, patients say that they feel pain and strain when they perform daily activities such as opening jars, turning a key in a lock or opening doors with particularly tough handles”.

What is the cure?

“Once rhizarthrosis starts, it never loses ground. Thus, we can try to relieve the symptoms, especially in light and medium arthroses, with physical therapies, anti-inflammatories, splints and an occupational rehabilitation related to daily life objects, that is, by helping patients understand how they can move their hand to lessen the pain.

Severe rhizarthrosese can only be sorted out by means of surgery. Once, the only method was arthrodesis. Nowadays surgery is more subtle. We have implants and arthroplasty, that removes the consumed, cartilage-less articulation and biologically reconstructs the ligaments at the base of the thumb, using those tendons and anatomical structures that are near the articulation. This kind of surgery is very frequent”.

The Recovery time

“After the operation, the immobilisation is only partial. In fact, we use a rod or splint that leaves the fingers and the distal phalanx of the thumb free to move. So, for three weeks the hand can perform limited moves.

Then the patient starts to use their hand again and in a few days they can perform basic movements such as eating, dressing, writing and driving. Some sessions with a hand therapist will be in order, as well as rehabilitation and progressively, the full use of the hand is restored in a few weeks. However, it is fundamental to ask a hand surgeon for help when the symptoms first appear”, Doctor Lazzerini points out.