Pain in Base of Thumb: Convincing a Skeptic

POSTED ON 4/2/2017 IN Regenerative Medicine Education BY Christopher Centeno

pain in base of thumb

More than a year ago I was lecturing at a medical conference, and a woman who was a stem cell scientist approached me. While some scientists usually don't like physicians using stem cells, this one had pain in the base of the thumb and asked if I could help. I just received an e-mail back from her, and I think we took a skeptic and convinced her that what we do is for real!

Thumb Arthritis Is Surprisingly Common

Thumb arthritis is the most common diagnosis when someone complains of pain in the base of the thumb when using their hands. This problem is found 15–20 times more often in women and is present in up to one-third of postmenopausal females. The problem is located in the CMC (carpal metacarpal joint), which is the joint between the wrist bones and the base of the thumb.

Our Modern Society Is Making This Worse

Why is a pain in the base of thumb and arthritis there an epidemic? Our constant use of computer keyboards, smartphones, and other devices puts more pressure on this thumb joint. Add to that the fact that our necks are always flexed and looking down at some device, which places the nerves that go to the thumb at risk, and you have a recipe for millions of people walking around with pain in the base of the thumb.

A Skeptic Enquires

As I said above, I was approached by a female stem cell scientist at a conference where I was lecturing, and she wanted me to take a look at her thumb. I knew her from LinkedIn, so I obliged and began poking, prodding, and moving her thumb around. It was clear that the thumb joint itself was very unstable, which means the ligaments that hold it all together were lax. This extra motion is very commonly found in finger arthritis, especially in women. Hence, I suggested that since she lived in the Washington, DC, metro area, our Network clinic there (Stem Cell Arts) and Dr. Mayo Friedlis would be a good choice. To find out more about what we do with thumb arthritis and how it's unique, see the video below: 

Just this week she sent me the following e-mail:

"Dear Chris,

I have been very busy with work and family and I have not followed up...you may recall that I asked you about my thumbs at a conference...In Oct I had the Regenexx procedure with Mayo Friedlis. I went through the 3-week sequence of prolotherapy, BMC, PRP treatments. I am now 6 months out and I have been experiencing 'remarkable' improvement. I am pretty sure it is not the placebo effect because I am a professional scientist and therefore very evidence based. All I hoped for was to stop the progression of inflammation and disability. My progress has been better than I hoped for: in addition to having almost no pain in my thumb joints, I have improved grip strength. I have gone back to doing things with my hands that I had given up—simple stuff like how I lift plates out of the dishwasher, but it effects quality of daily life...

However, if you need data for a thumb paper you can count me in. It seems like knees are your bread and butter but I really think that you should emphasize thumbs more because hand arthritis is so common in elderly women. Also it is a small space where a small cell dose is adequate. This therapy needs to become more mainstream, and not be just for high-paid pro athletes. Keep up the advocacy!"

The upshot? I'm so glad we were able to help this particular patient. Why? Many scientists remain skeptical that this stuff actually works, so when you can change their life in simple ways, like being able to unload a dishwasher, the whole field gains credibility. So great job, Stem Cell Arts and Dr. Friedlis!

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