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The thumb has a big job. Its wide range of movement allows it to perform many functions, from pinching to typing. But this mobility also means that the joint is more likely to degenerate over time.
When the cartilage at the base of the thumb breaks down from wear and tear, it can lead to pain and loss of function, also known as basal joint arthritis. As with any type of hand arthritis, early treatment relies on modifying activities, taking anti-inflammatory drugs, and resting the joint.
One way to rest the joint is through a process known as splinting, where you wear a brace to restrict the movement of your thumb.
Read on for more information about splinting, and a roundup of options to help you find the best thumb brace for you.
A 2017 research review has shown that splinting can help decrease pain and functional disability. Splinting the thumb involves using a brace that’s typically made of fabric or molded plastic material.
The brace limits the use of your finger, so you can fully rest it. It’s also designed to reduce the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis of the thumb.
Who can benefit from using a thumb brace?
Anyone experiencing pain in their thumb from localized osteoarthritis can benefit from wearing a thumb brace. Exactly how long you will wear the brace will depend on the condition of the joint.
The brace will encourage better ergonomic positioning of the thumb, reduce inflammation through the wrist, and help manage pain.
We chose the following thumb braces based on design quality and product reviews — favoring those designed with materials that aimed to strike a balance between rigidity and comfort, and those with more positive reviews than negative. We also included a range of thumb brace styles and price points.
Best overall thumb brace
- Price: $
This thumb brace is the most popular and affordable thumb brace on this list. It limits movement of the thumb, but allows for complete movement of the fingers. The three adjustable straps allow it to fit many sizes, and the reversible design means it can work on either hand. A blend of polyester, nylon, spandex, and other materials is designed for breathability, extended wear, and odor reduction.
It boasts 4.5 stars out of over 16,000 reviews. Many customers report that the brace provides comfort and support at a better price than other braces.
Best spica brace
- Price: $$
A thumb spica splint is one of the most heavy-duty braces on the market, best for those with more advanced conditions who require more restriction of movement. This one goes the extra mile by also offering adjustable wrist support.
It’s made out of a neoprene blend material, which allows it to be durable, while also adding some level of breathability. It also comes in options for both right and left hands, and in two sizes: small/medium or large.
With 4.5 stars out of over 900 reviews on Amazon, this spica splint checks a lot of boxes for reviewers. Many appreciate the firm support it offers. They also like the adjustable straps, which make it more comfortable to wear.
Best push brace
- Price: $$$
A push brace offers localized stability for the carpometacarpal joint at the base of the thumb. It keeps the thumb in an arched position so that you can continue all your regular activities.
The low-profile design of this brace makes it more functional and easier to wear all day. It’s made of latex-free materials that resist abrasion and are machine washable. It comes in a version for both the right and left hand, and in four different sizes: x-small, small, medium, and large.
Though it’s the most expensive brace on this list, the glowing customer reviews suggest that this is a good option for those who want protection with maximum hand function.
Best lace-up brace
- Price: $
The lace-up design of this brace, called a thumb stabilizer, allows it to be fully adjustable to your thumb. You can tighten or loosen the laces depending on the size of your thumb and the stability you’re looking for. It’s made of soft, breathable materials, and is designed to be used on either the right or the left thumb. It comes in two sizes: small/medium or large/x-large.
On Amazon, it has 4.5 stars out of over 2,000 ratings. Many customers praise the durable yet lightweight support it offers.
Best waterproof brace
- Price: $$$
This fully waterproof thumb brace can be a good option for all-day use. The moldable stay stabilizes the base of the thumb, while leaving the fingers and top of the thumb free to pinch and grab. The brace is designed with rounded, smooth edges and a liner for an extra layer of cushioning around the thumb. It comes in options for either the right or left hand and in sizes small, medium, or large.
Many customers report less pain and improved mobility with this brace. Some say that you may need to add additional cushioning where the plastic meets the thumb, using moleskin or similar material.
The first thing to consider when shopping for a thumb brace is which hand you’ll need the brace for. Manufacturers make thumb braces to fit either the left or the right hand, and some make them interchangeable so that you can wear them on either hand.
The next thing to consider is the level of comfort you’ll want while wearing the brace. Most conditions require wearing the brace for long periods — or even continuously throughout the day and night — so finding a brace that’s comfortable is essential. The material should be durable and firm enough to restrict movement, without digging into or irritating the skin.
More severe forms of thumb osteoarthritis may require a brace that restricts movement of both the thumb and the wrist.
Does thumb arthritis go away?
Thumb arthritis does not go away. But exercises and treatments such as splinting can help reduce pain and prevent further deterioration of the joint.
How long do you need to wear a thumb brace?
A typical treatment time may include wearing a splint for most of the day for 3 to 4 weeks. During this time, you may need to remove the splint several times a day. You’ll do this to exercise your hand and maintain its range of movement.
After an initial period of improvement, you can use a thumb brace for any activities that lead to pain or as a “resting” splint during sleep.
Should I sleep in my thumb brace?
Yes, depending on the condition of your thumb joint. A
That said, it’s best to check with your doctor or physical or occupational therapist about how to best use your brace.
What are other ways to treat thumb arthritis?
Other conservative treatments include:
- modifying activities and how you use your hands
- taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications or applying them topically
- practicing strengthening exercises for different muscles in your hands
If pain and function become worse over time despite other treatments for your thumb or hand arthritis, surgery may be an option.
Arthritis of the thumb is a common condition, which you may be able to improve by using a brace that helps the joint rest. Just be sure you find the brace with the right level of support for your specific level of arthritic pain.