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Arthritis of the Hand

Definition:

Arthritis of the hand is inflammation of the joints and/or degradation of the cartilage and physical bony structure between joints of the hand.


Causes:

Two main types of arthritis affect the hand. Osteoarthritis is caused by excessive wear on the joint through physical activity and exertion, wearing the cartilage thin between the joints within the joint space. This type of arthritis is usually more localized. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease caused by your body’s immune system attacking the joints. This form of arthritis is more systemic, and swelling and edema are often visible.

Symptoms:

Pain is the first and most obvious symptom of both forms of arthritis. With OA, pain is commonly located at the base of the thumb. As OA advances, the base of the thumb will often sublux down towards the palm. However, OA can occur at many joints and multiple joints may be affected at once. You may notice crepitus, a “creaking” of the joints with movement, due to bone on bone contact. As OA progresses, joints may become enlarged and begin to deviate sideways. At this stage, pain associated with OA is likely to be diminished or minimal as even the nerve around the joints have become damaged.  Rheumatoid arthritis pain will be spread through more joints. The joints may appear inflamed or swollen. RA typically has ups and downs, as symptoms flare and decrease in severity.

Treatment:

Joint protection and activity modification are primary strategies. Arthritis is progressive and will not go away on its own. Activities need to be modified to prevent continued wear on the joint and preserve joint integrity as long as possible. Splinting may be performed to provide additional support to the joints during your daily activities. Gentle range of motion work, heat or cold treatments may be utilized to manage pain during flares in symptoms.

Hand and wrist pain or numbness from common issues such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or sprains can make everyday activities difficult.
South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy Pain Guide