Can arthritis occur in the hand and wrist?

The term “arthritis” means inflamed joint. Arthritis can occur in any joint in the body and can occur in the hand and wrist. The wrist and the hand have the highest concentration of joints in one area in the body. When healthy, the bones are protected by a smooth cartilage that allows them to glide easily over each other during movement. If the protective cartilage is damaged, a bone-on-bone event can occur, causing inflammation and eventually, arthritis. Stiffness and pain are common symptoms of arthritis as well as swelling in the joints. The orthopedic experts at BICMD can diagnose hand and wrist arthritis through a state-of-the-art telemedicine platform. They can offer the best treatment options for your form of arthritis.

What are the types of hand and wrist arthritis?

There are many types of arthritis, any of which can affect the wrist and hand. The severity of symptoms can vary, even from one hand or wrist to the other. The most common types of arthritis that can affect the hand and wrist are:

  • Osteoarthritis – Often referred to as “Wear-and-tear” arthritis. Over time the cartilage breaks down due to use or age and the protective space decreases between the bones.
    • Kienböck’s disease – A specific kind of wrist osteoarthritis caused by a disruption of the blood supply to one of the carpal bones. Overtime the bone can die and collapse, causing arthritis in the joints around the carpal bone.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – An autoimmune disease that affects multiple joints throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in smaller joints like the hand and wrist.
  • Posttraumatic Arthritis – This type of arthritis can develop over years after an injury. The trauma to the wrist or hand can cause damage to the cartilage and can change the way the bones move against each other. Injured joints are more likely to become arthritic over time.

What are the symptoms of arthritis in the hand and wrist?

  • Pain in the hand and/or wrist that can be a dull ache or severe
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness in the joint
  • Swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Crepitus – or a cracking, grinding sound upon movement

How is arthritis of the hand and wrist diagnosed?

Through our telemedicine platform, our experts can diagnose your hand and wrist arthritis and can offer a comprehensive treatment plan based on your individual condition. Our “best in class” orthopedic specialists will begin with a thorough health history and ask you to describe your symptoms. X-rays are often part of the diagnosis process and will show the doctor the exact location and severity of the arthritis. If Rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, a blood test will be requested. Other diagnostic testing may be ordered, depending on your specific symptoms.

What is the treatment for hand and wrist arthritis?

Arthritis in the hands and wrist is often chronic and does not get better over time. There are treatment options available however, that help many people manage the progression on arthritis. Options for treating arthritis in the hands and wrist may include:

Non-surgical treatment:

  • Activity modification – Discontinue repetitive motions which may contribute to painful symptoms
  • Splint or brace – Temporary restriction of movement can help decrease inflammation
  • Medications – NSAIDs or other medication can be used for pain and to decrease swelling.
  • Hand or wrist injections – Have been shown to help with inflammation and pain
  • Occupational therapy – Specific exercises to help your type of arthritis
  • Hot and cold therapy

Surgical treatment:

If non-surgical methods have failed to alleviate pain and hand or wrist arthritis is affecting your quality of life, there are surgical treatments available. The goal of surgery for hand and wrist arthritis is to alleviate pain and improve hand function. Our experts can explain the surgical procedures and how they may help your individual condition. Some surgical treatments may include:

  • Fusion – fuses the bones together and prevents painful rubbing of bone-on-bone
  • Proximal row carpectomy – Three small bones are removed near the wrist, which reduces pain and maintains wrist motion.
  • Wrist Arthroplasty or total wrist replacement – replaces the arthritic joint with a new, synthetic joint

For more information about arthritis of the hand and wrist, or if you would like to receive an expert consultation about your hand, wrist or elbow along with the best treatment options designed for you, please contact our specialists, by clicking on “Connect With a Doctor.” You will be connected to one of our orthopedic telemedicine experts through our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform.