Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Hand Arthritis

Hand arthritis is a condition where the joints in the hands become inflamed, causing pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. It is a type of osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis.

Common Symptoms

The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the hand joints, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity
  • Swelling and redness around the affected joints
  • Clicking or grinding sensations when moving the joints (crepitus)
  • Weakness and difficulty gripping or grasping objects
  • Bony lumps or nodules at the finger joints

Cause & Anatomy

Hand arthritis is typically caused by the gradual wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions the joints, leading to bone-on-bone friction and inflammation. Other factors that can contribute include:

  • Age (more common as people get older)
  • Gender (more prevalent in women)
  • Genetics
  • Previous injuries to the hand or wrist
  • Overuse or repetitive motions involving the hands

The hand has many small joints that can be affected by arthritis, including:

  • The base of the thumb (CMC joint – see separate page)
  • The joint closest to the fingertip (distal interphalangeal joint)
  • The middle joint of the finger (proximal interphalangeal joint)
  • The knuckles or MCP joint that connects the hand to the fingers

Diagnosis

Diagnosis typically involves:

  • Physical examination of the hands and wrist
  • Medical history and symptom evaluation
  • X-rays to assess joint damage and cartilage loss
  • Ruling out other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis

Prevention

While hand arthritis cannot be completely prevented, certain measures may help reduce the risk or slow its progression:

  • Avoiding repetitive hand motions or overuse
  • Applying hot or cold therapy to reduce inflammation
  • Performing hand exercises to maintain flexibility and strength

Treatment

Treatment options include:

  • Medications like acetaminophen, NSAIDs, or corticosteroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Splinting or bracing to support the affected joints
  • Hand therapy exercises and activity modification
  • Assistive devices for daily tasks

Surgery

In severe cases, surgery may be recommended, such as:

  • Joint fusion (arthrodesis) to permanently join the bones and eliminate joint motion
  • Joint replacement (arthroplasty) to remove the damaged joint and replace it with an artificial implant
  • Removal of bone spurs or nodules (debridement)

Rehabilitation

After surgery, rehabilitation is crucial for regaining hand function and strength. It typically involves:

  • Splinting or casting to protect the surgical site
  • Range-of-motion exercises to improve flexibility
  • Strengthening exercises to rebuild muscle strength
  • Occupational therapy to relearn daily tasks and use assistive devices

FAQ’s

Can hand arthritis be caused by an injury?
Yes, previous injuries to the hand or wrist can increase the risk of developing arthritis in those joints over time.

Is hand arthritis hereditary?
There is a genetic component to hand arthritis, and some people may inherit a tendency to develop the condition, especially at a younger age.

Can hand arthritis be cured?
No, there is no cure for hand arthritis, but various treatments can help manage symptoms and improve hand function.

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