Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, and your fingers and hands are no exception.
In fact, osteoarthritis of the fingers and wrists is one of the most common forms of arthritis caused by joint wear and tear. In a representative study of seniors in Sweden, researchers found that 65% had a positive diagnosis for osteoarthritis in their wrists or fingers (compared to only 15% for knees).
In order to determine whether you might be suffering from this affliction, try to look out for these common symptoms:
- Swelling of joints
- Regular pain in your fingers or wrists
- Morning stiffness lasting from 5 to 20 minutes
- Loss of flexibility
Over time, as arthritis progresses to its end stages, you may also see deformities in your wrist and finger joints.
That’s why it’s important to slow down this process or prevent it from progressing.
Common Reasons for the Onset of Arthritis
One of the most common causes of osteoarthritis is entirely beyond your control — genetics. If your father, mother, or grandparents had osteoarthritis of the hands, then there’s a substantial chance you may inherit it.
Other reasons could involve untreated sports injuries, fractures, torn ligaments, joint deformities, and other wear and tear on your fingers and hands.
Any contact sports where the hands are involved can lead to arthritis over time. Even smaller, repetitive injuries (in sports like martial arts and football) can contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis.
In some cases, it’s important to distinguish between osteoarthritis and something called post-traumatic arthritis. And for many of our arthritis patients in their 50’s or 60’s, their condition may have been caused by a combination of these factors.
How Do I Treat Osteoarthritis of Finger and Hands?
There are a few ways to go about osteoarthritis finger treatment. These are:
Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or Tylenol can help provide relief during periods of prolonged pain. Long-term treatment of osteoarthritis with medication can cause severe health issues (ulcers in the stomach, bleeding, changes in kidney function, liver problems, etc.). Furthermore, over-the-counter medication may not be effective for patients with a severe onset of osteoarthritis.
There’s ample evidence to suggest that improving flexibility and hand strength can go a long way to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Improving form and function is a recommended tactic to keep pain at bay.
In fact, physiotherapy is often recommended by ER physicians after an injury to fingers and wrists. It’s an important preventative measure for the development of osteoarthritis, and an effective method for treating pain and mobility.
While it’s important to consult a professional before starting on a physiotherapy regimen (to avoid further injury), the Mayo Clinic recommends several essential hand exercises you can start practicing at home.
Selective injections for the affected joints is another treatment option.
If the onset of osteoarthritis is severe and painful, cortisone may be injected directly into the joint. This treatment option may negative side-effects, the most notable of which would be atrophy (the potential for shrinking tissue over time). While more recent studies demonstrate that our concerns about this phenomenon were probably much more substantial than warranted, atrophy is still a potential risk factor.
Viscosupplementation (the injection of hyaluronic acid into vulnerable joints) is another option. While it isn’t commonly used for osteoarthritis in the fingers (due to the small size of the joints), it is viable for wrists and other risk joints.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections are more common for finger osteoarthritis. PRP is responsible for all of the healing factors in our blood, and has been used to great success to reduce pain and improve function in osteoarthritis patients. At Athletic Edge, our certified doctors use ultrasound-guided injection to inject very small quantities of PRP (which has natural healing properties) into the small joints of the fingers.
Paraffin Wax Bath
A paraffin wax bath involves exposing your hands to heated candle wax and letting it dry naturally. The heat permeates through your hands from the cooling wax and helps in dissipating some of the pain.
Osteoarthritis hands treatment can also be tackled by surgery. Typically, this is done to reduce deformities or to fuse the joint so that the pain goes away. However, a side effect is that the person will lose substantial mobility, which is why it’s not often recommended.
Suffering from pain in your hands, fingers, and wrists? Ignoring it may be causing more damage than you think. Reach out to us today and start treating your pain.