Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, capable of affecting any joint in the body. Millions of people in the United States feel the painful effects of arthritis throughout their lives. The hand and wrist form one of the most complex systems in the human body, containing 29 bones and 27 joints. When one of these joints is compromised as a result of osteoarthritis performing daily activities such as preparing dinner or tying shoes can become difficult. Osteoarthritis affecting the hand and wrist is a degenerative condition in which the cartilage that cushions bones at the joints begins to wear out. This condition can be caused by “wear and tear” on the joint or as a result of disease or trauma. Sufferers of osteoarthritis of the hand and wrist may experience symptoms of pain, stiffness and swelling. There are three major locations in the hand where osteoarthritis most commonly occurs:
Trapezio-metacarpal joint – where the thumb and wrist meet
Distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint – the last joint in the finger, closest to the finger tip
Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint – the middle joint in the finger
When osteoarthritis affects the DIP or PIP joint, bony nodules may develop at the site of inflammation. A diagnosis of osteoarthritis can be confirmed through inspection of the outside of the hand and wrist joints and/or your Genesis Orthopedics & Sports Medicine physician may utilize an x-ray to determine narrowing of the joint passage. Early treatment is important to prevent further damage to the joints.
Splints or soft-cushioning sleeves may be prescribed to reduce pain. These devices are used to immobilize and support the joint in order to reduce pressure and ultimately restore mobility.
A cortisone injection will not cure osteoarthritis, but it is often prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area, allowing the afflicted individual to get back to their daily routine.
Physical therapy may be prescribed to relive pain and restore mobility to the hand and wrist joint. It is important to keep the joints in the hand and wrist productive so that atrophy does not occur. Physical therapy is often prescribed in conjunction with other treatments.