WHAT IS ARTHRITIS: Simply defined, arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. At the end of each bone there is cartilage, a firm rubbery material, which allows your joints to move smoothly. As the cartilage starts to breakdown the joint becomes stiff and painful. In its final stages bones rub against each other, in a condition known as “bone-on-bone arthritis.” Osteoarthritis is the most common type and is commonly known as “wear and tear arthritis.”
CAUSES: The hand and wrist have multiple small joints that work together to produce motion, including the fine motion needed to thread a needle or tie a shoelace. When the joints are affected by arthritis, activities of daily living can be difficult. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, however there are approximately 100 different kinds of arthritis.
SYMPTOMS/SIGNS: Early symptoms of arthritis of the hand include a dull, achy, or a burning sensation in the joints. The pain is often worse after increased activity such as heavy gripping, lifting, or repetitive use. This in turn leads to swelling around the joint and it is warm to the touch. You may also have the sensation of grating or grinding in the joint that occurs as the cartilage surfaces rub against one another.
TREATMENT: Treatment options for arthritis of the hands and fingers include medication, splinting, injections and surgery. The choice of treatment depends on:
- How far the arthritis has progressed
- How many joints are involved
- Your age, activity level and other medical conditions
- If the dominant or non-dominant hand is affected
- Your personal goals, home support structure, and ability to understand the treatment and comply with a therapy program