Rhizarthrosis is a form of arthrosis due to the wearing of the joint at the base of the thumb. Dr. Alberto Lazzerini, Head of Hand Surgery at Humanitas, spoke about this topic in an interview with Life on Rai Radio1.

“Rhizarthrosis is a form of arthrosis that affects the joint at the base of the thumb. It is a very unstable joint and works under mechanically disadvantageous conditions, so the cause of the Rhizarthrosis is mechanical. Its presence does not imply generalized arthrosis.

It is very widespread and it is more frequent in women, and being a degenerative form, it is more common after the age of forty, with a tendency to worsen with age.


What are the symptoms?

“Those who suffer from it feel a slight pain, which initially manifests itself only under stress, and then, if the rhizarthrosis worsens, it becomes stronger, more frequent and more constant. This is a very disabling condition, which limits the mobilization of the thumb and causes a decrease in strength. Patients report pain and fatigue in their daily actions, such as opening cans in the kitchen, turning a key in the lock, and opening a door with a particularly hard handle.


How is it treated?

“Once it has been established, the rhizarthrosis does not regress. We can therefore try to alleviate symptoms, especially in mild to moderate arthrosis, with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory agents and guardians and with occupational education on daily life, i.e. helping the patient to understand how to move his hand to relieve pain.

In high-grade rhizarthrosis, surgery is recommended. Arthrodesis was once used, but today surgery is more sophisticated. We have prostheses and arthroplasties, in which case the worn joint is removed without any more cartilage and all the ligaments of the thumb base are reconstructed in a biological way, using the tendons and anatomical structures that pass by the joint. These are interventions that are made very frequently”.


Recovery times

“After surgery, the immobilization is partial, in fact we use a splint or a guardian that leaves the fingers and the distal phalanx of the thumb free, thus allowing a limited use of the hand, for three weeks.

Then the patient starts to resume use of the hand and in a few days he is able to make elementary movements, such as eating, dressing, writing, and driving.

It will take a few sessions with a hand therapist, a little rehabilitation and progressively in a few weeks you will resume full use. However, it is essential that, when symptoms appear, we contact a hand surgeon”, concludes Dr. Lazzerini.