Tackling Arthritis In The Hands And Fingers
For most of us, our hands are everything. Theyre how we interact with the world, whether youre holding a pen, baking a cake, or playing tennis or golf. When arthritis slows us down, it can be painful and frustrating. Thats why its essential to find a well-regarded full-service orthopaedics practice for treatment. Countryside Orthopaedics boasts one of the top hand specialists in Northern Virginia. We also offer a top-notch team of hand therapists and physical therapists who can elevate the healing processwhether or not you choose surgery. With an arsenal of proven treatments and prevention strategies, we can get you back to the activities you love, making sure a full life remains within your grasp.
Is It Arthritis In My Hand Or Tendonitis
Arthritis and tendonitis can mimic each other, so its important to understand the difference between the two. Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons in your hand due to an injury or repetitive motion, and the pain can come and go suddenly or last for a few days.
Arthritis, however, is inflammation of the joint due to degenerative joint disease. There are many types of arthritis, but the most common forms are osteoarthritis , when the protective cartilage in the joint breaks down, and rheumatoid arthritis , when immune system attacks the joints. Early symptoms of arthritis include painful hand joints, burning sensation and decreased functionality of the hand and/or wrist.
Arthritis Of The Hand
Arthritis is not a single disease, but a name for joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, sexes and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.
A healthy joint consists of two smooth, cartilage-covered bone surfaces that fit together and move smoothly against one another. Arthritis is diagnosed when these smooth surfaces become irregular, dont fit properly together, and essentially wear out.
Arthritis can affect any joint in your body, but it is most noticeable in the hands and fingers. A common form of arthritis that affects the hand is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that most often develops in three sites:
- Base of your thumb, where the thumb and wrist come together
- End joint closest to your finger tip
- Middle joint of your finger
Read Also: Is Salt Good For Arthritis
Signs Symptoms And Treatment
Our fingers are important! We use them constantly, all day long: to brush our teeth, to send emails, to cook our meals. When arthritis affects the fingers, everyday tasks become difficult and painful. So what can we do when our finger joints begin to cause problems?
This article provides more information about arthritis in the fingers, what causes it, and what you can do to help keep your fingers moving.
Verywell / Cindy Chung
Treatments Methods To Relieve Symptoms
Finger arthritis is easily diagnosed because it is common. Most treatments for finger arthritis will match treatments for arthritis in general. These can include medications like:
- Topical creams: These usually contain ingredients like capsaicin or diclofenac, which are applied over the skin around the joint and can relieve pain and soothe inflammation.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Acetaminophen , ibuprofen or naproxen sodium are common choices. Always take these in accordance with the guidance on the label.
- Prescription pain relievers: Celecoxib or tramadol . These are unlikely to be prescribed for mild symptoms.
Many patients also benefit from exercises to treat their finger arthritis. Some exercises that may help include:
- Make a fist: Slowly and deliberately form a fist, then release it until the fingers are straight again. This is a great way to get all your fingers and your whole hand moving at once, and its easy to do literally anywhere.
- Finger bends: Slowly bend each finger at each joint, holding it in each position for a few seconds. This is a great way to focus on an individual finger thats bothering you.
- Thumb bends: Gently touch your thumb to the base of your pinkie, or as close as you can comfortably reach.
- Finger lifts: Putting your hand flat on a table, gently lift each finger individually.
There are many more arthritis exercises than just these, so you can always talk to your doctor if you are unsure of what to do.
Read Also: Are Cortisone Shots Good For Arthritis
Other Conditions And Joint Pain
Other forms of arthritis, and other conditions, can also cause joint pain. Examples include:
- fibromyalgia syndrome, a condition in which your brain processes pain in your muscles and joints in a way that amplifies your perception of the pain
- scleroderma, an autoimmune condition in which inflammation and hardening in your skin connective tissues can lead to organ damage and joint pain
What Are The Signs Of Arthritis In The Hands
May 19, 2021
Achy, swollen hands? Stiffness in your wrists? Its common to assume these are symptoms of arthritis. While 40 million Americans suffer from arthritis, its far less frequent in the hands than people expect. Instead, what many mistake for arthritis is actually tendonitis. Let’s look at the difference between arthritis and other conditions, risk factors and treatments.
Also Check: What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Caused From
What Is Arthritis In Fingers
Arthritis in the fingers is a condition where the joints in your fingers are affected and become swollen and painful. Arthritis in itself can affect any part of your body with joints and cartilages. It may do so by breaking down the smooth lining at the end of the bones known as the cartilage or the tissues of joints or by causing inflammation. This leads to the bones becoming exposed, rubbing against each other, and wearing away . Since your hand has many joints, it can be prone to arthritis, and arthritis in the hands can progress to finger arthritis.
There are a few types of arthritis that can affect the hands and fingers, like:
Osteoarthritis affects the wrist, the joint located at the base of the thumb, and the middle and top joints in the fingers. With osteoarthritis, you experience wear and tear of the cartilage which eventually leads the bones to rub against each other and get damaged. This progressive wearing down of the cartilage and bones may cause stiffness, deformities, and pain .
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the bodys natural immune system begins to attack its own healthy tissues, leading to inflammation in the lining of the joints. This causes a breakdown in the cartilage and eventually leads to the bones getting eroded. This chronic condition affects the small joints in the wrists, hands, and fingers symmetrically .
- Psoriatic Arthritis
How To Know If You Have Arthritis In Fingers
Different type of arthritis can cause a painful swelling of your fingers and toes. Due to the fact that of the method it makes your digits look, this symptom is in some cases called sausage fingers. The medical name for it is dactylitis.
Psoriatic arthritis also sometimes causes sausage-like swelling of the fingers. So does a group of other diseases referred to as spondyloarthritis , that includes PsA.
Rheumatoid arthritis hardly ever leads to this condition, however can imitate its symptoms. Although dactylitis and RA symptoms may look comparable, theyre not the same.
Dactylitis generally takes place asymmetrically, in one finger or toe at a time. RA normally impacts a number of joints at the same time, and appears in the same area on both sides of the body. .
Recommended Reading: How To Alleviate Arthritis Pain
What Type Of Hand Surgery Is Most Commonly Performed On The Specific Joints Affected By Arthritis
- Base of the thumb: Where your thumb and wrist join. Common surgical options include removing part or all of one of the trapezium bone , tendon transfer or joint fusion.
- Knuckles : Joint replacement is almost always considered for this repair. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause serious damage and disability to your knuckles.
- Second joint of your finger : Osteoarthritis commonly causes stiffness and loss of motion. Joint replacement or fusion are considered for these joints. Because you use these joints frequently, there is a chance your implant could wear out. In this case, your provider may recommend further surgery.
- Top of finger joint : Joint fusion is commonly used to treat arthritis in this joint.
Explain The Pain Is It Osteoarthritis Or Rheumatoid Arthritis
If opening jars becomes more difficult because of painful hands, or if climbing stairs produces pain in your knees, “arthritis” is often the first thing that comes to mind. The two most common forms of arthritisosteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritiscan cause similar aches and pains, but there are a few key differences between them. For example:
Onset. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage wears away. Pain occurs when bone rubs against bone. This type of arthritis pain tends to develop gradually and intermittently over several months or years.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis affecting 27 million Americans. Many people believe it’s a crippling and inevitable part of growing old. But things are changing. Treatments are better, and plenty of people age well without much arthritis. If you have osteoarthritis, you can take steps to protect your joints, reduce discomfort, and improve mobility all of which are detailed in this report. If you don’t have osteoarthritis, the report offers strategies for preventing it.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory condition in which your immune system attacks the tissues in your joints. It causes pain and stiffness that worsen over several weeks or a few months. And joint pain isn’t always the first sign of rheumatoid arthritissometimes it begins with “flu-like” symptoms of fatigue, fever, weakness, and minor joint aches.
You May Like: Is Lemon And Honey Good For Arthritis
How Neck Arthritis Is Diagnosed
Your doctor will start by taking a history and doing a physical exam. Theyll check the range of motion in your neck and test your strength, sensation, and reflexes to find out if there is pressure on your nerves or spinal cord. Theyll ask when your symptoms started, when the pain happens, and what makes the pain better and worse.
Your doctor may order an X-ray to assess alignment and look for arthritic changes, says Dr. Shah. If there is a concern of compression of spinal nerves or the spinal cord, you may need an MRI to look at the neutral structure and discs, says Dr. Shah.
A CT scan may be ordered to look at the bone more closely, especially to see if any bony outgrowths are causing compression. However, X-rays and MRIs are the tests that are usually ordered, says Dr. Shah. A CT scan with a myelogram may be used if an MRI cant be done.
An electromyography, or EMG, may be ordered to assess for nerve compression, says Dr. Shah. An EMG tests the electrical conduction of the nerves in the arms. This test would be helpful if you have multiple nerves being compressed or compression of nerves at the neck and in the arm, he says.
Your doctor may order blood tests to see if you have any antibodies or systemic inflammation that would reveal inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis.
How To Treat Osteoarthritis
The goals in treating osteoarthritis are to relieve pain and restore function. Brief rest either by changing activities or wearing a splint can help. Soft, snug sleeves can help support a joint when rigid splints are too restrictive. Heat can soothe the joints and help keep them mobile. It is important to keep as much finger motion and function as possible. Hand therapists can teach joint protection exercises and activity modification to help protect joints. Anti-inflammatory medication or a steroid injection into the joint can decrease pain, but neither cures osteoarthritis.
Surgery is considered when the non-surgical options above have not helped. In most cases, you will tell your doctor when you are ready for surgery. The goal is to restore as much function as possible and to minimize your pain. One type of surgery is joint fusion. The worn cartilage is removed and the bones on each side of the joint are fused together, which means that the joint will not move but it will not hurt. Another choice is joint reconstruction, where the rough joint surface is removed and either replaced with your own soft tissue or with an implant. The type of surgery depends on the joint involved, your anatomy, and your activities. Your hand surgeon can help you decide which type of surgery is the best for you.
This content is written, edited and updated by hand surgeon members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.Find a hand surgeon near you.
You May Like: What’s The Best Medicine For Psoriatic Arthritis
Hand Exercises For Arthritis
Hand exercises or hand therapy can help you improve mobility in your fingers.
If you want to try hand therapy, you can ask your doctor to refer you to a hand therapist, which can be an occupational therapist or physical therapist. They’ll work with you to show you exercises that may help alleviate pain and improve flexibility in your hands.
For example, they may ask you to make a loose fist and then slowly open your hand. They can also show you different ways to complete everyday tasks to avoid pain and stiffness.
Assistive devices to open cans and doors, reach for objects, and assist with dressing yourself can be prescribed for you. These can help alleviate stress on your joints.
- Joint deformity
Talk to your doctor about the symptoms you have. They may suggest certain lab tests or imaging tests as part of your complete evaluation.
Osteoarthritis Of The Hands
Get more information about the causes, symptoms and treatments of hand OA, which is very common and can be debilitating.
About half of all women and one-quarter of all men will experience the stiffness and pain of osteoarthritis of the hands by the time they are 85 years old. A degenerative disease that affects all the tissues of a joint, OA leads to the breakdown over time of the smooth, protective cartilage on the ends of bones, so bones rub together, causing pain. The 29 bones of your hands and wrists come together to form many small joints that can be affected by OA.
Read Also: Is Red Wine Bad For Arthritis
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Hand Surgery
Recovery time depends on many factors, including the severity of your condition, type of surgery you had, the skill of your surgeon and your compliance with therapy. Most people can return to their activities about three months after joint reconstruction surgery. Your team of caregivers can give you the best estimate of your particular recovery time.
Injections For Shoulder Arthritis
There are currently two types of injections that can provide pain relief for shoulder arthritis. The first type is cortisone shots. Typically, cortisone is mixed with a numbing agent that provides immediate pain relief and helps your doctor know if the injection is in the right place. Once the numbing medicine wears off, the joint may be sore until the cortisone kicks in. Its important to ice the shoulder for a day or so after the shot.
Cortisone shots dont damage the shoulder, but most surgeons limit them to no more than a few a year in most cases of arthritis. Cortisone shots may increase the risk of infection if you undergo a total shoulder replacement soon after the shot. If you are considering the surgery, consider avoiding cortisone shots a few months prior.
The other medicine that can help with shoulder arthritis is synthetically manufactured hyaluronic acid. Its a naturally occurring lubricant in the human body. This liquid substance has been injected into arthritic knees for many years. This injection sometimes helps with the pain for up to two years, but it is unusual for it to take all the pain away for an extended period of time.
The current recommendation is not to have shoulder replacement surgery within three months of having a cortisone shot in the shoulder. If you are considering surgery, it is best to avoid cortisone shots until you have discussed it with your doctor.
Dont Miss: Get Rid Of Arthritis In Hands
Also Check: Should You Eat Tomatoes If You Have Arthritis
Is Heat Or Ice Better For Arthritis
For an acute injury, such as a pulled muscle or injured tendon, the usual recommendation is to start by applying ice to reduce inflammation and dull pain. Once inflammation has gone down, heat can be used to ease stiffness. For a chronic pain condition, such as osteoarthritis, heat seems to work best.
Read Also: Whats Rheumatoid Arthritis
Hand Joints Are Most Affected By Osteoarthritis
The hand has 27 joints.6 Each finger has 4 joints3 knuckles and 1 joint that connects its long bone in the hand to the wrist. The thumb has 3 joints and the wrist contains 8 joints.
While any joint in the hand can develop osteoarthritis, the joints most often affected include:
- The proximal interphalangeal joints, or middle knuckles of the fingers
- The distal interphalangeal joints, or the end-most joint of the fingers and thumb
The metacarpophalangeal joints, the largest knuckles of the hand, are less likely to be affected by osteoarthritis.
Recommended Reading: Is Exercise Good For Knee Arthritis
How Is Hand Osteoarthritis Diagnosed
It’s often possible for your doctor to diagnose osteoarthritis of the hand from your symptoms and a simple examination, without any need for tests. Although x-rays will show changes in the shape or structure of the joint, they’re often not needed to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests are sometimes helpful if there’s any doubt about whether it’s osteoarthritis or another type of arthritis that’s causing your symptoms.
Sometimes gout can affect the hands and this can look very much like osteoarthritis. If your doctor thinks it may be gout then they’ll want to check your urate levels through a blood test. Urate is a waste product which is normally flushed out of the body through the kidneys. But if it builds up it can form crystals in the joints, leading to sever pain and swelling.
It’s less common for the joints where your fingers meet your hand to be affected by osteoarthritis, so if you have pain and swelling in these joints your doctor may ask for blood tests to check for rheumatoid arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis can also affect the hands and may look similar to osteoarthritis. There are no blood tests et present for psoriatic arthritis, but this type of arthritis is linked to the skin condition psoriasis. Your doctor may therefore ask if you or anyone in your family have a history of skin problems.