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Lifelong athletes face joint replacement. It's my turn. Advice?

"I'm so severely left-handed, I reach across to pick up items on my right side," I joked ruefully.

Fifty years of weightlifting and poling hard while hiking, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. Scrambling up steep rocky inclines on hands and feet. Grabbing rocks and tree branches to prevent falls.

Cooking from scratch. Kneading four loaves of bread at once. Gardening. Sewing. Keeping my hands busy for 68-years.

So. I'm going to have joint replacement in the base joint of my thumbs, starting with the left hand. Naturally, the left hand is the worst. Bone-on-bone. Scared I'll lose use of my hands.

For fifteen years, I have worn gloves while hiking even in summer. For some reason it helps with the pain. For twenty years, I relied on a hiking pole in my right hand. Of course I use two poles while descending steep trails to prevent falls.

Luckily, my knees are fine despite decades of running and hiking.

Before seeing a surgeon, I'm trying physical therapy and hand exercises. Also slathering prescribed ibuprofen gel on my hands topped with cotton gloves. It helps with pain.

The doctor recommends CBD cream for pain. So I'll check out a legal marijuana store, looking around guiltily before ducking in the door. Reminds me of college.

Am forcing myself to use the opposite hand. This strengthens neural connection in your brain and even builds brain cells.


Benefits of Using Your Opposite Hand


LiterateHiker 9 Jan 16

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Wow, I never realized we could have joint replacement surgery in our hands! That's awesome! I hope it brings you relief so you can carry on with your wonderfully active life.

dkp93 Level 8 Jan 16, 2022


My hairdresser's sister had both base thumb joints replaced.

"Her surgery turned out beautifully," Lori said. "She's thrilled. Now she has full use of her hands and no pain. She wore the same thumb brace after surgery. Not while driving because it hurt too much."

That was a relief to hear.


Getting older is a bugger and not for the faint hearted, but it beats the alternative. Sorry to hear about your hands. Do they give you any info on the success rate and the degree of recovery you can expect? I understand that masseuses often have similar problems. Good luck


For some lucky reason, I've always lived by the advice, "All things in moderation." Alas, that didn't work perfectly, because I suffered a broken bone from skiing and an eye injury from tennis. Now, my biggest risk is riding my bicycle.

It's not the bicycle that's risky. It's those other bastards on the road who don't watch where they're going or leave you room as they pass.

@Cyklone You're right about that. But one the main reasons I moved here is Fort Myers has over 100 miles of paved bike paths. I avoid riding on roads as much as possible.

@mischl sounds like a lovely place to ride. Here in south aussie we have a lot of really good bike paths as well but sometimes they don't connect too well


All that activity you've been doing has kept you attractive and desired. You've done well in that department. Sorry to hear you're wearing out. There's no free lunch.


Thank you!


See a hand specialist or orthopedic surgeon who does hands that's who did mine

bobwjr Level 10 Jan 16, 2022

Talk to a specialist in joints before any operations.


Thumb joint replacement seems to be the only option if you are in pain and want to continue with your various outdoor activities. The good news is that according to some online medical articles recovery is quick within 3 -5 weeks. 🙂


I have to have problems with my hands. Wear the same device as you do, not all the time but when it is really painful. It helps. I also do exercises every day. It helps. My doctors have not suggested any kind of operation. I would get a second opinion if I were you. Good luck and take care.


Seems like there's an opposing side to "use it or lose it." Overuse it and still lose it. I think a lot of health problems can be partially 'nature' (genetic) and some is nurture. I have a fused ankle on one foot. Hiking uphill has been little problem but downhill has been difficult and I found I would turn my fused foot to the side which placed extra pressure on the other knee and by the time I got down the slope there was a lot of pain in that knee. I believe the way to reduce the impact of arthritis is a strong support muscle but obviously that doesn't always work. I too do a lot of weight bearing exercises and once prided myself on the size. I have learned it's far better to lift a lower weight slowly than a heavy weight fast. I am right handed (can one call that a north paw) but tried doing things with my left. Supposedly that helps the brain add neurons and avoid brain issues but one has to go slowly. Learned the hard way. At least we live in a time where things like this can be remedied. Let us know how it is going.


Had surgery on my left hand, successfully, no joint replacement just repair, still going strong

bobwjr Level 10 Jan 16, 2022

Classic cars are awesome, but sometimes ya gotta replace a ball joint. Just another obstacle, plus good time to teach your daughter to knead



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With 91% alcohol, that spray would severely dry my hands. No, thanks.


My left thumb is also painful, and I'm right handed. For me, it is genetic, I remember my paternal grandmother rubbing her left thumb and referring to it as "my damn thumb." I notice pain in that thumb especially when crocheting and knitting, or other hand intensive activities. My right thumb is fine. So far I'm doing OK with it, I take Motrin daily, but that is for more than just the thumb. When I worked Short Term disability claims I had a dental hygenist who filed a claim, she had just had a bilateral thumb joint replacement. Her employer also invested in new equipment for her, ones with bigger handles. I don't remember how long she was out of work. I am hoping I won't need to have any replacements, but time will tell.


grape seed extract seems to help to some extent. I used it to postpone carpal tunnel surgery.


My advice would be to find a hand surgeon that does lots of these procedures each year and has low morbidity numbers. I had an ulnar nerve transposition done a few months ago by an excellent Army hand surgeon.


Good luck with whatever course of action you choose. Please keep us informed; as soon-to-be 67 I have yet to experience what you are going through but who knows.


Oh WOW...I have to wear a brace like that also(but mine is black😂)...i have severe pain at the Base joint on my left hand and the right hand is giving me trouble also. I knocked the left thumb out of joint when I was about 11 or 12 playing football...the ball hit the tip of my thumb and pushed the whole thumb out of joint at the Base. Stretched the HELL out of the ligaments and it was about 4 or 5 hours before it was popped back in. I should probably see a specialist. It hurts CONSTANTLY now and immobilizes my ability to grip anything that involves the my Guitar...Arghhh...glad you posted this...good luck...yours is swollen I see...mine isn't. Are they "replacing" or "repairing"?


Yup, the joints are swollen. Replacing the joints one at a time. Sorry your hand was so badly injured.

Fifteen years ago, I broke my right index finger and wrist in a fall. Also got a severe SLAP tear in my right shoulder. Had x-rays, of course.

"You have severe arthritis in the base of your thumbs," the doctor said. "Your base thumb joints need to be replaced." I ignored him.

My daughter and I have a high tolerance for pain. It's genetic. So I continued hiking, shoveling snow and weightlifting. Three years later my doctor asked, "How's the shoulder?"

"I figure constant pain is good practice for getting old," I joked. (Pause for laughter). Silence. Looked up and she was writing an order for surgery.

"One in a million patients"

After right shoulder surgery in 2009 (four big fixes), I wore this brace for six weeks. Good luck sleeping in it. The minute it came off, I ran to the YMCA and lifted 40 lbs. "I'm BACK!" Went home and curled up like a shrimp in pain.

Dialed back and lifted weights, increasing the weight by one-pound increments. Iced and stretched before and after weightlifting. My muscles were atrophied. Had to tear frozen tissue. I had more ice packs in my freezer than food.

At first the doctor and physical therapist both called me a "non-compliant patient." They said I was pushing myself too hard.

Eighteen months later, they called me "One in a million patients." I had regained muscle and range-of-motion.

@LiterateHiker nice recovery...and nice guns...🤗. I think my problem will turn out to be the stretched ligaments from when I was younger. The joint has always bothered me but as of the last few years it has become very pronounced...I am hoping it is just an inflammation...we shall see. I have only suffered three broken orbital break from a fall...a finger(again from a fall) and a double break on my clavical. First clavicle break was from a motorcycle accident and the second was from a skiing accident two months later(doctor had said NO for the whole season but THAT wasn't going to happen 😂)...I stayed off the skis till March and actually skied Tuckerman Ravine that April...I am a little crazy when it comes to snow.


I had bi-lateral knee replacement surgery in 2014 and it was basically a100% fix. I’m pain free and back to skiing 30-40 days. I’m a big believer in joint replacement.


Thank you. That's reassuring.


You are doing the right thing and movement is the key. Also get a second opinion.


My only advice is follow your doctors advice to keep moving it.
Also fine a hand specialist. My biggest hero is a hand specialist in Grand Rapids Michigan who put my hand together after a farm accident 40 years ago.
Been using it all this time with little pain.


I can only say 'keep on keeping' on'. Every situation is different and the choices will be yours.🤗

Oddly enough. My symptoms are much worse on the right side. I tell people 'I used to be right handed. But now I can be clumsy equally -- either side'.

Everybody makes their own way. Only let it slow you down if you absolutely have to
-- to avoid getting hurt.🤗


Best of luck…..hope you come through healthy and well, better than ever. Just find the correct treatment that works best for you.


Thank you.

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