Typical symptoms: Affects the base of the thumb and the joint in the fingers causing progressive stiffness, swelling and pain.
Hands are the most commonly affected areas for osteoarthritis (OA). This is caused by a slow progressive loss of cartilage in a joint. Osteoarthritis affects three main areas of the hand:
- base of the thumb
- joints closest to the fingertips
- middle joints of the fingers.
Typically, the fingers become progressively stiff, painful and swollen, and bumps may develop on the finger joints (called Bouchards or Heberden’s nodes). In the case of the thumb you may have trouble gripping or pinching things with any kind of strength, or trouble opening lids or turning keys.
Risk factors include heavy usage, traumatic injuries that cause joint instability and misalignment. Some people may also inherit genes that predispose them to develop osteoarthritis.
Treatment for osteoarthritis in the hand or wrist includes:
- Osteopathy can be useful and employs gentle massage and mobilisation techniques.
- Anti-inflammatory or analgesic drugs
- Corticosteroid injections
- Finger or wrist splints
It is also worth pointing out that there are other forms of arthritis that are commonly associated with the hand and wrist issues, such as rheumatoid arthritis. This is an autoimmune disease: this means that your immune system (which usually fights infection) attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake, making them swollen, stiff and painful.