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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

Are You Developing Arthritis In the Hand?

The hand contains multiple joints that work together to help you move throughout the day. We use them to tie our shoes, text our friends, and type on a computer. Hand arthritis occurs when the cartilage - the smooth, slippery tissue between the joints - starts to break down (think of it as the thinning of “rubber” on the tires).

Here’s how to know if you’re developing arthritis in the hand and what can be done to treat this painful condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Hand Arthritis

The most common types of hand arthritis are:

  1. Osteoarthritis: When the cartilage wears away, causing pain due to “bone-on-bone” movement.

  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis: A chronic disease that causes the synovium (joint lining) to inflame and swell.

  3. Post-Traumatic Arthritis: A hand fracture or dislocated hand joint, even one that is treated properly, can later become arthritic.

While the causes of hand arthritis are different, their symptoms are relatively similar. Common signs of hand arthritis we see in our Vail Valley patients include:

  • Stiffness in the joint

  • An achy sensation in the hand, thumb, or fingers

  • Swollen joints

  • Soreness after periods of increased use

  • A grinding or grating feeling in the joint

  • Loss of function

You may notice your symptoms are worse in the morning or after periods of rest. Common sites where hand arthritis can develop are the base of the thumb and finger joints.

Treating Hand Arthritis: Nonsurgical and Surgical Options

When we hear reports of arthritic hand symptoms from our patients, we often examine their hand through imaging (x-ray and MRI). We may also order a blood test to check for inflammation markers that accompany rheumatoid arthritis.

Once the hand arthritis has been diagnosed, we will always attempt less invasive treatment if possible. Nonsurgical treatment options for hand arthritis involve:

  • Ice

  • Bracing

  • Anti-inflammatory cream like Voltaren

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol

  • Physical therapy

If these methods don’t provide relief, we then move onto nonsurgical injections, such as corticosteroid injections. Corticosteroids are injected directly into the hand arthritic joint and can provide almost instant relief that lasts for months or years.

Surgical options for an arthritic hand are limited and depend on the impacted joint. A few options we may recommend are:

  • Arthroscopic Debridement: Where the joint is cleaned, removing any damaged material. This procedure is done to reduce pain and slow down the progression of your arthritis.

  • Arthroplasty: Here, the damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial implant.

  • Fusions: This procedure is rare and usually reserved for extreme arthritis in the finger joints. While fusions are safe and effective, they do result in a loss of some (or all) flexibility in the joint.

All these surgeries aim to restore function, minimize pain, and increase your quality of life. Dr. Joseph will help you decide which surgery is the best for you and your lifestyle.

Contact Dr. Joseph About Your Hand Arthritis Today

The type of treatment we begin with depends on how early your arthritis is diagnosed. If you are experiencing hand pain that may be caused by arthritis, schedule an appointment with Dr. Joseph today.

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