When Cheryl first felt pain in the base of her right thumb, she dismissed it as just another minor ache. But as she pursued her beloved hobbies of needlepoint, cross-stitch and embroidery, the pain grew worse and more frequent. “Eventually I had pain all the time,” says the 60-year-old retired medical assistant, who lives in Oak Hill. “It got so bad I couldn’t do everyday things like turn a key or open a jar without it really hurting. I knew I had to do something about it.”
Cheryl consulted J. Mark Evans, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in trauma and reconstructive hand surgery at OrthoVirginia. Dr. Evans diagnosed arthritis of the thumb, a debilitating condition that causes hand pain, stiffness and weakness, limiting range of motion and making it increasingly difficult to perform simple tasks.
“It was quick and painless and the incisions were so small if I didn’t tell you they were there, you wouldn’t see them,” she says.
After discussing her treatment options, Cheryl initially chose cortisone injections. But when the pain returned she decided surgery was the answer, and opted for a basal joint arthroplasty. During the minimally-invasive procedure, Dr. Evans removed part of Cheryl’s thumb joint and replaced it with a tendon graft from her arm. The outpatient surgery took just a couple of hours, and she was back home that afternoon. “It was quick and painless and the incisions were so small if I didn’t tell you they were there, you wouldn’t see them,” she says.
Cheryl wore a cast from her hand to her elbow for six weeks following surgery, but was able to return to work after two weeks. When the cast came off, Dr. Evans gave her some hand-strengthening exercises to do and she did not need physical therapy because her range of motion was normal. The pain has never returned.
The overall experience was so positive, Cheryl wishes she’d done something sooner. And she urges others in similar circumstances to take action: “Don’t live with the pain. It’s not worth it,” she says.