KEY FACTS ABOUT ARTHRITIS of the hand and wrist
- Arthritis of the hand and wrist is pain and stiffness of your joints. Sometimes you may have redness, swelling, and warmth around painful joints. In severe cases, the shape of your joints may change.
- Arthritis of the hand and wrist may have many causes. You may inherit genes for osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis from your parents. Aging, injury, infection, heavy lifting or contact sports that put pressure on joints that damage cartilage are just a few factors that can contribute to arthritis.
WHAT IS ARTHRITIS of the hand and wrist?
The two most common kinds of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis is a disease in which the cartilage in your joints breaks down. The joint gets irritated and swollen (inflamed). Sometimes the irritation causes abnormal bone growths, called spurs. Osteoarthritis normally affects the feet, knees, neck, lower back, hips, and fingers. Symptoms of the disease often start to appear by middle age.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the lining of your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes redness, swelling, stiffness, and changes in the shape of your joints. It usually affects the wrists, knuckles, knees, and feet. It usually starts in early adulthood or middle age.
HOW IS ARTHRITIS of the hand and wrist DIAGNOSED AND TREATED?
A Summit Medical Group hand and wrist specialist will examine the hand joints to make an initial assessment. Typically, he or she will recommend a combination of X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs to determine the exact extent of your arthritis. Other tests may include blood tests, or joint aspiration, which uses a needle to take fluid from a joint for testing. Our Orthopedics and Sports Medicine center offers all of these services under one roof.
There are many ways to treat arthritis. The goals of treatment are to:
- Relieve pain and stiffness
- Reduce swelling
- Stop or slow down damage to your joints
- Keep your joints working properly
Several kinds of medicines may be used, such as:
- Prescription pain medicines or nonprescription pain medicine
- Medicine patches put on painful joints
- Steroids or other medicine injected into a painful joint
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to help slow joint damage if you have rheumatoid arthritis
Three types of exercise are best for people with arthritis:
- Range-of-motion exercises are gentle stretching exercises that help you move each joint as far as possible. Examples include low-speed bike riding, tai chi, and yoga. Range-of-motion exercises help you keep or improve your flexibility and relieve stiffness.
- Strengthening exercise, such as weight training, makes muscles and tendons stronger. Strong muscles and tendons support joints better. You will be able to move more easily and with less pain.
- Aerobic or endurance exercise at a moderate pace, such as walking or bicycle riding, improves your overall health and helps control your weight.
Talk with your healthcare team before you start an exercise program. Too much exercise too soon or even at the wrong time of day may make arthritis worse. Your care team may refer you to a physical therapist to design a program that is right for you.
Your care team may advise arthroscopy, which is a type of surgery done with a small scope inserted into your joint. Our team can look directly at your joint and repair it without having to cut open the joint.
If you have a joint that is severely damaged, we may recommend a joint replacement.
- Your healthcare team may recommend physical or occupational therapy to treat pain and help you have better use of your joints.
- Your care team may suggest using heat or cold therapy, depending on the type of arthritis you have.
- Sometimes it may help to use a splint or brace to rest a joint and protect it from injury.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may relieve some types of arthritis pain. TENS directs mild electric pulses through the skin to nerves in the painful area.
- Acupuncture and massage are other possible treatments.
HOW CAN I MANAGE ARTHRITIS of the hand and wrist?
- Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare team.
- Rest your joints when they are warm, swollen, or painful.
- Learn how to move in ways that are easier on your joints. Be open to using devices to help you. These devices include canes and walkers; bath seats and grab bars for the bathtub; and larger grips on tools, utensils, pens, and pencils. Velcro fasteners on clothes and shoes are very useful, too.
- Join a support group or take classes on how to manage your arthritis.
- Eat a healthy diet. Ask your care team about the benefits of talking to a dietician to learn what you need in a healthy diet.
- Try to keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight. Losing some weight can lower the stress on your joints.
- If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your healthcare team about ways to quit smoking.
- Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.