CMC thumb arthritis

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    meredith-kohn-bocek on #255379

    I have carpometacarpal (CMC) thumb arthritis. I wear a brace when I play the harp, but it is very painful especially when playing octaves. I am scheduled for the surgery, arthroplasty of the thumb which requires the splitting of a tendon and relocation of part of the tendon in reconstruction of the thumb. I am very concerned about the strength and movement of the thumb for future playing of the harp. Has anyone had this surgery or know anything about it?

    Beverly Ann Colgan on #255422

    Hi, my sister, a cellist, just had this operation and I asked her to write something for you. she says,

    “I had a ‘Carpometacarpal Joint of the Thumb Arthroplasty’ to address ‘Osteoarthritis of right first CMC Joint.’ I had the left thumb done 12 to 15 years ago and in both cases, I’m really glad I did, as I no longer have pain and have recovered 95%+ of my mobility and more than that of my strength. The joint was fused and bone pieces were removed; a tendon, taken from my forearm, was coiled and used to replace the removed bones—it was reattached to itself so that the other thumb joints move well. The recovery is NOT fast, however. I was in a splint for two weeks after surgery while swelling subsided, then a cast for 4 weeks, then another removable splint for a couple of weeks. I could not bear weight for a full 3 months after surgery to ensure that everything healed internally. Then I could gradually increase stretching and picking up heavy objects as I went through physical therapy. But now that I’m past all of that, I have good flexibility and strength. My wrist was a bit problematic from being immobilized in the cast, but with exercise, that also got better. The pain is gone—sometimes my hand gets tired and a little achy from extended use, but again, there is constant improvement. The way they do the current surgery is to put some bend in the fused joint so that you have good “opposable thumb” dexterity. That doesn’t affect my playing cello, but the tip of the little finger to the tip of the thumb when I stretch my hand out isn’t as long as it used to be. I don’t know what the octave span on the harp is, but I think if the surgeon knows that she is a harpist and has an idea of what movements are the most important, perhaps they can adjust the angles. I was fortunate in that my surgeon is also an amateur cellist!

    I’m happy to talk to the musician if you want to give her my contact information.”

    If you’d like to talk with her, you can email me at and I can out you in touch.

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