What Is Knuckle Arthritis
Knuckle arthritis is less common than arthritis affecting the other smaller joints in the hand or the joint where the thumb joins the wrist . The most common knuckle arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. In this situation, the joint lining produces chemical factors that inflame and destroy the cartilage and soft tissue, such as ligaments and tendons. The result is that the joint surfaces are destroyed and the other fingers drift towards the little finger. The causes may include:
- Age: The older we get, the more likely we are to develop arthritis. Over time, our cartilage that cushions and lubricates your joints wear down, eventually leading to arthritis.
- Genetics: Some people are genetically predisposed to developing thumb arthritis. The estimated onset time of thumb arthritis can usually be determined by family medical history.
- Gender: Women are more disposed to knuckle arthritis.
- Previous injury to the wrist or the area surrounding knuckles and finger
If the pain starts to interfere with daily activities of daily living, then a visit with a hand surgeon could be helpful. The diagnosis is usually confirmed using plain x-rays. Special x-rays are also helpful to look carefully at the metacarpal head, particularly in milder cases.
Symptoms Of Arthritis In Hands
Common symptoms of knuckle arthritis include:
- Pain: Joint pain is the most common symptom of knuckle arthritis that results from the breakdown of cartilage in the MCP joint. This lack of protective cushioning and shock absorption from cartilage loss causes the ends of the finger bones to grind against each other with increased friction.
- Tenderness: Increased pain and inflammation that result from knuckle arthritis can cause tenderness around the knuckles and in the fingers.
- Stiffness:Cartilage helps provide cushioning within joints and allows bones to glide smoothly over one another. When cartilage breaks down with knuckle arthritis, the knuckles and finger joints can stiffen up, making hand and finger movements difficult.
- : Arthritis of the knuckles can cause decreased range of motion in your finger joints, which can limit your ability to pinch, grip, and grasp objects.
- Swelling: Knuckle arthritis may cause swelling in your knuckles from inflammation as a result of increased friction between the finger bones from cartilage degradation. Swelling within the knuckles can also result from inflammatory processes that attack the joints that occur with autoimmune forms of arthritis, such as RA and PsA.
- Weakness: Arthritis of the knuckles can cause weakness in the muscles of the hands and fingers, especially if the muscles are not used often or if moving the joints is painful.
Psa In Hands And Fingers
PsA of the hands or fingers primarily causes stiffness and swelling.
In some cases, your fingers may swell enough to take on a sausage-like appearance . About a third of people with PsA experience dactylitis in at least one finger.
Stiff and swollen fingers can make it hard to perform ordinary tasks, like zipping a jacket or unscrewing a jar. If youre experiencing any of these difficulties for the first time, see your doctor. They may be a result of PsA.
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How Is Arthritis In The Hand Treated
Treatment options depend on the type of arthritis, stage of arthritis, how many joints are affected, your age, activity level, the hand affected and other existing medical conditions.
Goals of treatment are to:
- Improve mobility and function.
- Increase your quality of life.
- In the case of rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, to slow the progression of the disease.
Treatment options include splinting/bracing, medications, injections, non-drug approaches and surgery.
Splits or braces support and protect the affected joint, reduce deformity, provide joint stability, lessen strain, and promote proper joint alignment. Your healthcare provider, occupational therapist or hand therapist will discuss splinting/bracing options, how and when to wear them and how long to wear them .
Steroids reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Steroids are usually used if medications dont control inflammation or if the inflammation is limited to a few joints. Injections are administered directly into the affected joint. Because steroids can weaken tendons and ligaments, injections are repeated only a few times.
Other management strategies
A complete treatment plan for arthritis of the hand includes these additional approaches:
If nonsurgical treatments no longer provide relief and the cartilage at the ends of your bones has worn away, surgery may be an option. There are several approaches:
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Exercise For Your Thumbs
Your doctor or a physical therapist may recommend hand exercises. You can do these exercises to improve range of motion and improve your arthritis symptoms.
Simple exercises can include a thumb stretch, in which you attempt to touch the tip of your thumb to just under your pinky finger.
Another stretch, called IP, uses flexion. It requires you to hold your thumb stable with your other hand and attempt to bend just the upper part of the thumb. And an additional exercise is to simply touch the tips of each of your fingers to the tip of your thumb.
You should only do these exercises after consulting with your doctor or physical therapist. And be sure to get instructions to make sure youre doing the movements correctly.
What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis In The Hands
Early symptoms include:
- Dull or burning joint pain, appearing hours or a day after increased use of your hands.
- Morning pain and stiffness in your hand.
- Swollen joints in your hand.
If you’ve had arthritis in your hand for some time:
- Symptoms are present more often.
- Pain may change from dull ache to sharp pain.
- Pain may wake you up at night.
- Pain may cause you to change the way you use your hand.
- Tissue surrounding your affected joint may become red and tender to the touch.
- Youll feel grating, grinding, cracking or clicking when bending your fingers.
- Your fingers cant fully open and close.
- Small bony nodules form on the middle joint of your fingers or at the top joints of your fingers .
- Your finger joints become large and deformed and abnormally bent, leaving your hands weak and less able to accomplish everyday tasks.
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What Causes Knuckle Pain
Each hand is composed of 27 different bones. These include the eight carpal bones at the bottom of the hand closest to the wrist, the five long metacarpal bones that make up the palm of the hand and connect to the carpal bones, and the remaining 14 phalange bones that make up the fingers.
The knuckles form at the joining of the metacarpal bones of the hand and the proximal phalangeal bones, or the first set of the three phalangeal bones that make up each finger. This area is referred to as the metacarpophalangeal joint.
The surfaces of the metacarpal and phalangeal bones that form the knuckles, or MCP joints, are lined with protective cartilage that provides cushioning and prevents friction between bones with movement. In arthritis, the cartilage breaks down over time, causing pain and increased difficulty moving the joints. In severe cases, the cartilage wears down so much that bone rubs directly against bone, causing increased pain, inflammation, and joint damage.
While arthritis, including osteoarthritis , rheumatoid arthritis , or psoriatic arthritis , is the most common cause of knuckle pain, other causes include hand and finger injury, scleroderma , and gout.
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Changes In Surrounding Joints
In patients with advanced thumb base arthritis, the neighboring joints may become more mobile than normal.
Thumb extension deformity. This patient has lost mobility at the base of the thumb due to arthritis. The next joint closer to the tip of the thumb has become more mobile than normal to make up for the arthritic joint. Normally, the thumb does not come to a right angle with the rest of the hand.
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You Shouldnt Stress Daily Tasks Like Tying Your Shoes Or Using The Television Remote Because Of Arthritis Ease Hand Pain With These Finger And Hand Exercises For Arthritis
If you consider the countless number of times you need your hands to do things throughout the day, they may be one of the body parts you use most frequently. From brushing your teeth to tying your shoes to turning on and off a light switch, your hands and fingers are involved in so many steps of your daily routine. And if youre a hand talker, they get even more work during the day! But many of these simple tasks can become quite painful if you have arthritis in your hands.1
There are things you can do to help with the discomfort of hand arthritis. For starters, rub some Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel on your hands at the first sign of symptoms. Its the first and only OTC gel to contain an NSAID, a powerful medicine for joint pain due to arthritis. Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel helps you get a better grip on objectswhether its a paintbrush, hammer or shovelto tackle your next DIY project.
Hands exercises and stretches can also provide arthritis pain relief. Focus on using your hands and strengthening them to help reduce arthritis symptoms overall. How exactly? We asked industry experts Blake Dircksen, PT, DPT, CSCS, orthopedic physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy & Fitness in New York City, and Jordan Metzl, MD, sports medicine physician at Hospital For Special Surgery, to share their top picks for exercises that can help ease arthritis in the hands.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Being overweight can drive up your inflammation. Where body fat is distributed can contribute, as well. For instance, a large waist circumference is typically associated with excess inflammation.
Researchers recognize that there is a connection between inflammation and obesity, although more needs to be learned. At the very least, talk to your doctor to determine the ideal body mass index for your frame, and work toward that goal.
You don’t need to lose a lot of weight to improve inflammation. Reducing your weight by between 5% and 10% significantly lowers your level of inflammation, according to the Obesity Action Coalition.
What Are The Treatment Options For Knuckle Arthritis
Treatment usually begins when the joint first becomes painful. This may only occur with heavy use of hands and fingers. Treatment options for knuckle arthritis include:
- Fusion: A fusion of any joint is designed to eliminate pain by allowing the bones that make up the joint to grow together or fuse into one solid bone. Fusions are used in many joints and were very common. Joint fusions are still very commonly used for many different joints to treat the pain and potential deformity of arthritis.
- Artificial joint replacement: Artificial joints are available for the finger joints. These plastic or metal prostheses are used by some hand surgeons to replace the arthritic joint. The prosthesis forms a new hinge, giving the joint freedom of motion and pain relief. The procedure for putting in a new joint is called arthroplasty.
- Recovery: The hand may be bandaged with a well-padded dressing and a finger splint for support after surgery. Physical or occupational therapy sessions may be needed after surgery for up to 8 weeks. The first few treatments are used to help control the pain and swelling after surgery. Some of the exercises are recommended to help strengthen and stabilize the muscles around the finger joint. Other exercises are used to improve fine motor control and dexterity of the hand. The patient usually takes less than 6 months to get completely recovered.
If Your Toes Hurt You Might Not Suspect Arthritis As The Culprit But Arthritis Pain In Toes Is More Common Than You Think
When you think of arthritis, you might think of creaky knees, stiff hips, or painful, swollen fingers. Yes, arthritis commonly attacks joints in the hands, knees, and hips. But it can happen anywhere you have joints including the toes. So, if you cant bend your big toe or have swelling around your toes, this toe pain may be caused by arthritis too.
Toe arthritis can be caused by wear and tear of the cartilage in your toe joints, as well as inflammation of the toe joints. Arthritis most often attacks the big toe, but the other toes may be affected, too. Learn more about what causes toe arthritis and how it is treated.
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Are Glucosamine And Chondroitin Supplements Helpful For Treating Osteoarthritis Of The Hand
Supplements are not reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration . They are not required to undergo the same rigorous clinical trial methods that medications must undergo in the U.S. Some clinical trials show benefits with pain relief however, there is no proof that these supplements slow the progression of osteoarthritis. If you plan to try these, always check with your healthcare provider before using supplements. These products may interfere with medications you currently take.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Dull or burning joint pain, morning stiffness, swollen joints in your hand are all symptoms of arthritis. Many types of arthritis could affect your hands. Many treatment options are available depending on your exact arthritis type. Medications can reduce joint pain and swelling. Researchers are still working on ways to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. See your healthcare provider if you think you have arthritis in your hands. They will perform a complete exam and offer you a complete treatment plan, which includes hand exercises, use of hot and cold packs, other lifestyle tips and traditional treatments including medications, braces/splints, steroid injections and surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/06/2021.
Use Hot And Cold Therapy
Heat and cold treatments can help relieve arthritis pain and inflammation.
- Heat treatments can include taking a long, warm shower or bath in the morning to help ease stiffness and using an electric blanket or moist heating pad to reduce discomfort overnight.
- Cold treatments can help relieve joint pain, swelling, and inflammation. Wrap a gel ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and apply it to painful joints for quick relief. Never apply ice directly to the skin.
- Capsaicin, which comes from chili peppers, is a component of some topical ointments and creams that you can buy over the counter. These products provide warmth that can soothe joint pain.
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Can Arthritis In The Hand Be Prevented
Arthritis cant be prevented. However, you can watch for symptoms of arthritis as you age and see your healthcare provider if you notice changes in your joints. You can also take steps to control factors that you can control. Eat healthy to nourish your body and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts more stress on your joints. Dont smoke. Smoking increases your risk of arthritis.
Exercise To Maintain A Healthy Weight
Control your weight with regular, low-impact aerobic exercise that doesnt hurt your toes. Cycling on a recumbent bike or swimming are good options. Keeping your weight close to your ideal body mass index is one of the best things you can do to control your toe pain. Being at a healthy weight balances the pathomechanics of the entire foot and relieves stress on toes, says Dr. Archer. Its also a good idea to do specific exercises that strengthen your Achilles tendon as well as the tendons in the balls of your feet and toes. You can even simply wiggle your toes.
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What Is Osteoarthritis Of The Hand
- The base of your thumb, where it meets your wrist
- One of the joints closest to your fingertips
- The middle joint of a finger
There’s no cure, but there are a lot of ways to protect your joints and feel better.
Without treatment, osteoarthritis gets worse over time. Itâs important to get a diagnosis and a treatment plan as soon as possible.
Stir In Some Turmeric
The yellow spice found in curries and ballpark mustard contains a powerful compound called curcumin, which inhibits enzymes and proteins that promote inflammation. Several studies have found that turmeric specifically reduces pain and swelling in arthritis patients. In one study of people with knee osteoarthritis, those who ate just 2 grams of the spice a day had pain relief and increased mobility equal to those who took 800 milligrams of ibuprofen. How to get some curcumin in your diet? Sprinkle ½ teaspoon on rice or in vegetables daily. Or keep some packets of ballpark mustard in your pocket and break them out at lunchtimeits the perfect dose for arthritis pain relief. This is how much turmeric you need to reduce inflammation.
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