What Does Arthritis Feel Like
Not everyone with arthritis will have the same symptoms. Development of symptoms depends on the type of arthritis and how severe your condition is. RA tends to produce long-lasting stiffness, swelling, and redness of the joints. People with RA may also feel fatigue, general discomfort, and lack of appetite.
Exercise #: Finger Lift
Place your left hand flat on a table, palm down. Starting with your thumb, lift each finger slowly off the tableone at a time. Hold each finger for a second or two, and then lower it. Do the same exercise with every finger of the left hand. After youre done with the left hand, repeat the entire sequence on the right hand.
Part 9 of 9: Wrist Stretch
Exercise #: Make An O
Start with your left hand pointing straight up. Then, curve all of your fingers inward until they touch. Your fingers should form the shape of an O. Hold this position for a few seconds. Then straighten your fingers again. Repeat this exercise a few times a day on each hand. You can do this stretch whenever your hands feel achy or stiff.
Part 7 of 9: Table Bend
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Treatments For Hand Oa
- Non-Drug Treatments: Reducing strain on joints with a splint or brace, adapting hand movements, doing hand exercises or using hot or cold therapy can help to ease pain.
- Drug Treatments: Medicines to ease OA symptoms are available as pills, syrups, creams or lotions, or they are injected into a joint. They include pain relievers like acetaminophen, counterirritants like capsaicin or menthol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids.
- Surgical Treatments: If medications or self-care activities fails to give relief, surgery may be an option. An orthopaedic surgeon can remove the damaged cartilage and fuse bones together or replace the damaged joint with a plastic, ceramic or metal implant.
Symptoms Of Hand & Wrist Arthritis
Symptoms for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are slightly different.
Osteoarthritis symptoms include:
- Pain and swelling caused by the bones within a joint rubbing together due to lack of cartilage
- Soreness and stiffness when moving the hand or wrist after periods of inactivity
- Bone enlargement in the finger joints
While rheumatoid arthritis can affect children and the elderly, it is most commonly seen in middle-aged people, with the majority of sufferers being women. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the hand and wrist include stiffness, pain, and swelling in the joints, which may worsen after periods of inactivity.
Some patients may develop rheumatoid nodules firm bumps under the skin near the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can develop quickly or occur gradually over several years.
How Are The Hands And Wrists Structured
There are 27 small bones that make up each hand and wrist. Eight of those bones are in your wrist. Each finger has three bones, and the thumb has two. There are five bones in the palm of your hand, connecting each finger and the thumb with the wrist.
There are more than 30 muscles that control the hand and wrist. These are in your hands, wrists and forearms.
Muscles are attached to bones by tendons. These are small but very tough pieces of connective tissue. Tendons pass through a bony passage in your wrist, known as the carpal tunnel. The median nerve also passes through this tunnel.
What To Expect From Your Doctor
First, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. During your physical exam, your doctor will examine your wrist for swelling, pain, and tenderness. The location of the swelling can tell your doctor which wrist joints are most affected. Problems in the wrist can affect peripheral tendons, causing tendonitis.
Next, your doctor will examine the range of motion of the wrist itself. This can show how mild or severe the arthritis is, or if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Your doctor will ask you to twist and flex both wrists in every direction. Finally, theyll manipulate your wrist and thumb joints and ask if you feel pain.
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Arthritis Treatment In The Greater San Francisco Bay Area
The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still being researched, although genetics are thought to play a role. Exposure to bacteria or a virus may also cause the immune system to attack the joints.
Osteoarthritis is often caused by the normal wear-and-tear of aging, but can also be related to obesity, repetitive stress to the joint, and injuries. Additionally, people who have a family history of osteoarthritis or who already have rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Hand & wrist arthritis at a glance:
Recognizing Symptoms Of Arthritis In The Hands
Women are more likely than men to have arthritis in their hands, and often people experience arthritis symptoms in their hands before other signs of arthritis show up. Different forms of arthritis affect the hands in different ways. For example, psoriatic arthritis, a type of arthritis related to the skin condition psoriasis, is most likely to cause pain in the joints closest to the fingernails , while in osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, cartilage can wear down in all the joints in the fingers and thumb. Symptoms of arthritis in the hands may include:
- Pain in some or all of the joints, including joints of the fingers, wrists, and thumbs
- The growth of bony knobs on finger joints
- Numbness in fingers
- Swollen, red, or warm joints
- Stiffness in the fingers, especially in the morning in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis
- Growth of lumps, or nodules, under the skin of the hands in patients with rheumatoid arthritis
- Fingers that look like swollen sausages in patients with psoriatic arthritis
- Difficulty with motions that require gripping and twisting, such as opening jars
The progression of arthritis in the hands can actually be measured. People with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis lose bone density, which can be measured with bone-density scanning, while the joint damage of osteoarthritis can usually be seen on X-rays.
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When To See A Doctor
Hand and wrist pain often gets better with things you can do at home.
However, youll need to visit your GP surgery if:
- your pain isnt getting better after treatment at home for two weeks
- the pain is getting worse
- the pain keeps returning
- the pain is stopping you from doing your everyday activities
- your hands are stiff and swollen, particularly in the mornings and these feelings dont get better after half an hour
- as well as being swollen and stiff, your hands are warm and red
- you also feel generally unwell, especially if you have a high temperature
- you have ongoing tingling, numbness or weakness in the hands or fingers.
Its important to get urgent medical attention, if:
- you think youve broken a bone
- you have extreme pain
- any part of your hand, wrist or fingers is a funny shape or colour
- you have lost the feeling of part or all of your hand
- there was a snap, grinding or popping noise when you injured your hand or wrist
- you cant move your hand, wrist or fingers properly.
If you have ongoing hand and wrist pain or a specific condition affecting the hand and wrist it could be helpful to see a hand therapist. These are healthcare professionals with expertise in treating conditions affecting the hand and wrist. Your GP, rheumatology department or orthopaedic department could refer you to one.
The Diagnosis Of Osteoarthritis
When diagnosing osteoarthritis, your doctor will ask you about your hands and other joints. Explain how your symptoms affect what you do. Your doctor will check how your hands look and function. X-rays of joints with osteoarthritis can show loss of normal joint space, bone spurs, or other changes.
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Hand Osteoarthritis Causes And Risk Factors
Osteoarthritis was once thought to happen because of wear and tear on your joints. Doctors now know thereâs more to the story.
On the ends of your bones, there’s a layer of smooth material called cartilage. It helps cushion your joints and allows them to slide easily. But over time, the cartilage gets worn down. The bones rub against each other, causing the symptoms of OA. The wear and tear can also cause other tissues in the joint to make inflammatory cells, which damage it more.
Certain things can make you more likely to have hand OA:
- Age. The older you are, the higher your odds.
- Sex. Compared with men, women are twice as likely to get it.
- Ethnicity. Rates are lower in African Americans.
- Weight. Thinner people are less likely to get it than those who have obesity.
- Injuries. This includes broken and dislocated bones.
- Changes in your genes. Your parents might have passed down a higher chance of OA.
- Joint problems. This includes infections, loose ligaments, overuse, and joints that arenât aligned the way they should be.
What causes flare-ups?
How Are Wrists And Hands Affected By Arthritis
Any joint in your fingers, thumbs, knuckles and wrists can be affected by arthritis. In fact, these are the most commonly affected joints if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis can affect your hands and cause joint pain, swelling and stiffness. People with hand arthritis often find their grip weakens and it becomes harder to do fine movements, such as turning a key or tying shoelaces.
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Other Possible Causes Of Hand Pain
Hand pain is also a sign of Dupuytrens contracture, a condition in which the tissue of the palm and fingers becomes thickened and tight, causing the fingers to curl inward. Its not clear why Dupuytrens contracture develops, though those who smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, and have seizures or diabetes are more vulnerable to developing it.
Your doctor will also consider whether your hand pain could be due to carpal tunnel syndrome, says Dr. Byram. RA can be a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, so if we see someone who has carpal tunnel, well want to make sure they dont have RA. Carpal tunnel is a condition that occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand the median nerve is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Arthritis In Hands Treatment
Occupational and Physical Therapies for Arthritis in Hands
There is no cure for osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis but many therapies exist for both conditions. These include not only physical therapies that reduce stress on your hands and fingers, but also include arthritis in hand aids that make it easier to complete daily tasks such as opening a jar, opening a door, buttoning your shirt or belt and fastening your safety belt.
Treatments for Arthritis in Hands and Wrists
In summary, therapies consist of ways to ease the pain and swelling in your hands so you can carry out daily tasks without putting much pressure on your hands. Early diagnosis and treatment can help preserve your joints, as well as improve your ability to continue with your activities and decrease pain and stiffness.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that individuals struggling with arthritis in hands perform range of motion exercises daily to prevent their joints from locking up and ease the pain during movement.
The Mayo Clinic also hosts a slideshow detailing a series of exercises that individuals with arthritis can use to cope with their arthritis. These exercises focus on joint flexibility. Thus, physical therapies include exercises can help in ease the pain that occurs due to arthritis in hands.
Early diagnosis and treatment of arthritic hands will have an impact on your quality of life. Read the material about your condition and consult your physician.
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How Is Thumb Arthritis Treated
The first method of treatment for thumb arthritis involves wearing a soft brace to limit the movement of your thumb, which allows the joint to rest. If the condition is more serious, a hard brace can be used, and either type can be worn overnight or intermittently throughout the day.
Other noninvasive steps include taking anti-inflammatory medications, modifying your activities, and icing the joint for 5 to 15 minutes several times a day.
If these methods do not help, the next step would be to inject a steroid medication directly into the joint. The injection may provide relief for several months and can be repeated indefinitely. Both men and women typically respond well to such conservative treatments at first, and for some, they may be all that is needed. But the treatments dont stop arthritis from progressing.
When nonsurgical approaches are no longer effective, surgery is an option. The best type of surgery for you depends on a number of factors, including the progression of the disease and how painful the symptoms are. In most cases, surgery for thumb arthritis involves removing some or part of trapezium with varying ways of stabilizing the joint.
What Are The Symptoms Of Thumb Arthritis
Pain in the thumb is the most common symptom of thumb arthritis. You might feel pain when you are pinching or gripping objects, Dr. Luo says. You may also notice a little bump at the base of your thumb, he adds, explaining that this would be a bone spur, or a projection that develops along joints as a result of inflammation, including osteoarthritis.
Other symptoms may include the following:
- Swelling and tenderness at the base of the thumb
- An ache after prolonged use of the thumb
- Loss of strength when gripping or pinching with your thumb
- Limited motion
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How To Get Rid Of Arthritis In Fingers
Arthritis of the fingers can be quite uncomfortable, causing symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. These symptoms make hand motions like grasping and pinching difficult, which restricts a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two types of arthritis that most commonly affect the finger joints. Depending on which type of arthritis affects your finger joints, you may experience additional symptoms.
Thankfully, numerous remedies can help alleviate the discomfort from arthritis of the fingers, from hand exercises to help strengthen your fingers to over-the-counter and prescription pain medications and surgical treatments.
How Doctors Diagnose Arthritis Hand Pain
To determine whats behind your hand pain, your doctor will rely on your medical history, a physical exam, and imaging and blood tests to make a diagnosis and determine what kind of arthritis hand pain you have.
Feeling a patients joints during the exam can help differentiate between OA and inflammatory arthritis, Dr. Byram says. The swelling feels harder in those with OA because extra bone at the joints, called osteophytes, forms over time. The swelling in RA and other inflammatory disease feels softer.
Imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, can reveal joint erosion and osteophytes and loss of cartilage .
If your doctor suspects inflammatory arthritis, they will also order blood tests to detect the presence of certain antibodies, such as rheumatoid factor or anti-CCP, that help identify RA and other types of inflammatory arthritis.
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Does Exercise Help Hand And Wrist Arthritis
Exercise, as part of a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan, can improve joint mobility, muscle strength, and overall physical conditioning, and it can also help you maintain a healthy weight. A tailored exercise program guided by a physical therapist can help relieve pain and fatigue and preserve joint structure and function. People with hand or wrist arthritis often avoid physical activity because of pain, but doing so can lead to muscle loss and excessive weight gain, and these can cause other health problems.
Why Its Important To Trust A Hand And Finger Expert
When youre looking for an expert to guide you to the answers and relief you need, its important to trust a doctor with specialized knowledge and training.
When asked about his expertise and training, Dr. Newsum explained, Two important things to look for in your surgeon are whether they are fellowship-trained and board-certified in their specialty. Meeting the requirements means your doctor has had very specific training in the anatomy, pathophysiology, treatments and the latest nonsurgical surgical techniques to heal a number of conditions that affect the arm, hand and fingers, and that they are up to date on the latest treatments. I focus my time on my specialty exclusively in order to provide evidence-based treatment to both adults and children and deliver expert, compassionate care.
And when asked why he loves to do what he does, Dr. Newsum described two motivating factors: excellent mentors throughout his training and career, and helping people quickly regain their functioning again.
Dr. Newsum concludes, We use our hands for everything, so I get to make an impact in peoples lives that makes a big difference. I really think my specialty and subspecialty reflect the core of values of modern medicine: to reduce pain and restore function.
If youre experiencing pain or stiffness in your fingers or hands, turn to our experts for help. Learn more about AdventHealths Hand to Shoulder Center experts.
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Does Glucosamine Help Hand And Wrist Arthritis
Glucosamine, with or without chondroitin sulfate, does appear to have some affect on the inflammatory response caused by arthritic degeneration in joints, specifically in the knees. Unfortunately, glucosamine has not been shown to slow or repair degeneration in articular cartilage. For this reason, no specific recommendation for the use of glucosamine, with or without chondroitin sulfate, can be made.
Exercise #: Wrist Stretch
Dont forget about your wrists, which can also get sore and stiff from arthritis. To exercise your wrist, hold your right arm out with the palm facing down. With your left hand, gently press down on the right hand until you feel a stretch in your wrist and arm. Hold the position for a few seconds. Repeat 10 times. Then, do the entire sequence with the left hand.
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