The hand and wrist are comprised of multiple small joints that work together to produce many intricate motions, from threading a needle to turning a key in a door. When joints become affected with arthritis, the activities of daily living can be very difficult. A hand or wrist joint becomes arthritic when the cartilage between the bones has worn away. Instead of gliding smoothly across each other, the friction between the bones makes movement painful and the joint’s range of motion is reduced.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, also known as “wear and tear” arthritis. Osteoarthritis generally affects people over 50 years old.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic form of the disease that causes significant joint inflammation that can damage cartilage and bone. The onset of symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis can start at an early age.
Traumatic arthritis can affect people of any age as a result of an injury or trauma to the joint. A joint that has sustained an injury is more likely to become arthritic, even if the injury has been properly treated. Fractures that damage cartilage or joint surfaces, and dislocations are among the most common injuries that lead to arthritis.
- Pain at the joint
- Joint stiffness, swelling and/or deformity
- Difficulty pinching or gripping items, weakness
- Bony lumps at the middle finger joint
- Pain deep under the base of the thumb
Following a physical exam and patient history, your physician may order an X-ray and MRI to confirm the diagnosis and examine the severity of the condition.
You can often treat arthritis of the hand and wrist joints with medications, injections and physical therapy with one of the ONS certified hand therapists. Over the counter medications and icing the joint for 10 minutes at a time may help relieve pain and swelling. For severe cases, fusion or joint replacement surgery can be considered, but this is very rare.