Best Treatment for Arthritis in the Hands
The hand has many small joints that
allow us to make fine motor movements. With time or overuse, these
joints can become inflamed, making normal daily activity difficult.
Arthritis is inflammation of the
joints. There are many different types of arthritis, but two of the
most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is often known as ‘wear and tear’ arthritis. The
protective cartilage that covers the ends of the bones is gradually
worn away, leading to bone grinding on bone, which causes
inflammation and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes
the synovial lining of a joint to swell, which leads to pain, but
also stiffness in the joint.
Trauma, such as a fracture, meniscus
tear, or injury to a ligament can make a joint more susceptible to
developing arthritis similar to osteoarthritis.
Symptoms usually begin slowly, with a
dull, sometimes burning sensation, noticeable particularly after
increased use of the joint. These symptoms, along with stiffness, can
be worse in the mornings. If you suspect you may be developing
arthritis, it is important to get early treatment to enable you to
continue your normal activities.
Nonsurgical treatment can include
injection, splinting, and medication, and your treatment will be
based upon your particular condition.
Injection: These are generally a
combination of a long-lasting anesthetic and a steroid, which can
give relief from pain for a period lasting months. Possible side
effects such as weakening of tendons and ligaments, or infection,
limit the use of injections to only a few times.
Splinting: This treatment is
usually combined with injections. The splint supports the hand by
reducing stress placed upon the affected joints. A splint can be worn
during periods of joint pain, but not for too long as overreliance on
the splint can lead to deterioration of the muscles. As muscles
support and stabilize joints it is important to keep them strong.
Medication: These are
anti-inflammatories such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which help to
reduce the body’s inflammatory response of swelling and pain. Many
people take glucosamine (a neutraceutical, not a drug) for arthritis,
although they have not yet been studied for their effectiveness in
helping hand arthritis. If you wish to try neutraceuticals or any
other dietary supplement, please consult your doctor as they can
sometimes cause negative reactions with prescribed drugs.
If nonsurgical methods fail to provide relief, surgery may be
considered. The affected joint may be preserved, reconstructed or, if
the joint is beyond repair, a replacement or fusion might be
Ideally, the joint will be preserved.
This can be dependent on early diagnosis. Arthroscopic surgery (a
technique using small incisions and tiny, precise instruments) is
becoming more common and has the benefit of a faster recovery time
due to the lesser overall trauma of the procedure.
A fusion will eliminate pain, but the
joint will no longer function.
Surgery to replace a hand joint is
similar to a hip or knee replacement, with the replacement joints
being made from long-lasting materials.
Postoperative treatment consists of
splinting the hand temporarily, pain relief through medication, and
physical therapy to regain maximum use of the hand.