How to Treat Arthritis of the Hand

How to Treat Arthritis of the Hand

Posted on 07/17/2018

Arthritis is a very common condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints of the body. For some patients, just one joint may be affected. However, for others they may have a variety of joints in different areas affected at any one time. Although it is believed to be most common amongst older people, anyone of any age can suffer from the condition.

Types of arthritis

Many people don’t realize that there are two different types of arthritis. These are known as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


This is the most common variety of arthritis affecting people in the United States and occurs when the smooth cartilage that lines the joint begins to become thinner and rougher. This affects how smoothly the joint can move and the tendons and ligaments must work harder for the patient to remain mobile. The joint may become swollen and small, bony spurs called osteophytes may form. Eventually, the cartilage may deteriorate to the point that there is no cushioning between them and the bones rub against one another. If this happens is can alter the shape of the joint and force the bones out of their normal position.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs as a result of problems with the patient’s immune system. The immune system attacks the joints, causing pain and swelling. Again, the bone and cartilage can eventually deteriorate and cause permanent damage to the joint. Patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis tend to also develop problems affecting other parts of their body.


Virtually any joint in the body can be affected by arthritis but it is more common than some in others. It is particularly prevalent in the knees, hips and hands.

Symptoms of arthritis in the hands

The exact symptoms of arthritis tend to depend on what type you experience, and which joint is affected. When it comes to arthritis of the hands, common symptoms tend to include:

-         Pain and tenderness in around the wrist and the thumb and finger joints.

-         Inflammation, sometimes with the skin becoming red and warm to the touch.

-         Stiffness in the joints which makes moving them fairly difficult or painful.

-         General mobility issues with the joints of the wrist and hand.

-         Weakness in your hands, such as difficulty gripping a pen.

How to treat arthritis of the hand

While there is no permanent cure for arthritis, there are variety of therapies and treatments that can slow its progression and enable you to manage your condition so that it has minimal impact on your day to day life. The exact treatment you will need will depend on the type of arthritis that you have, and your specialist hand doctor will be able to advice you which order you should try the treatments in and which are most likely to be effective for you.

Some of the most commonly recommended treatments for arthritis of the hand include:

Hand exercises. Hand exercises have been shown to help keep the joints flexible, reduce pain and stiffness and improve the range of motion you can experience. They can also increase the production of synovial fluid which can be used to improve joint function. Your specialist hand doctor will be able to provide you with physical therapy exercises designed specifically to alleviate the symptoms of hand arthritis.

Pain relief medications. While general pain relief can ease your discomfort, many specialists suggest that you take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories as these can be used to alleviate the pain associated with all types of arthritis. They can also help reduce swelling and the discomfort that stems from it.

Corticosteroids. These are popular drugs used to control inflammation. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis you may be given them to take orally as they can then target all areas affected. However, if your inflammation is limited to a just your hands then the corticosteroids may be administered via injection directly into the joint.  

Surgery. Surgery is normally a last resort for treating arthritis of the hand since it is invasive and will require you to take some time off to recover. There are two types of surgery which may be recommended. The first is arthrodesis, during which the bones of the joint are fused together to make a stronger knuckle. However, flexibility and mobility of the knuckle are extremely limited. The other is known as arthroplasty and this involves removing the damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial implant. While arthroplasty is largely successful, the artificial joint cannot fully replicate the same range of movement as your natural knuckle.



If you suspect that you may be suffering from arthritis of the hands and would like to make an appointment for an assessment, or if you would like to discuss the treatment options for hand arthritis further, please don’t hesitate to contact our offices.


Please contact us today to schedule an appointment or get more information about our hand and upper extremity surgical services.