Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it commonly affects the hands because of their frequent use. Arthritis of the hand develops as the cartilage protecting the bones of the finger joints wears down over time. Over the years, as stress is put on the joints, cartilage wears thin and sometimes even erodes completely, resulting in stiffness and pain. Arthritis of the hand may cause the joints to lose their normal shape and limits the motion of the joints within the hand. It occurs more frequently in older individuals, as a result of normal wear and tear over time, that causes cartilage to wear away.
The definitive symptoms of arthritis of the hand are pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness, although the pattern and intensity may vary. Some individuals feel that the inflamed joints may feel warm or hot to the touch and others may have cysts that develop on the ends of the joints. Damaged cartilage and bone rubbing together may cause a sensation of grating or grinding when the hand is moved.
Treatment for arthritis of the hand focuses on relieving pain and addressing symptoms. It is commonly treated with a combination of methods that may include medication for pain and discomfort such as:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Prescription pain relievers
- Corticosteroid injections
Splints may also be used to help support the affected joint and to ease the stress placed on it during frequent use and activities.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition involving numbness, pain and tingling in the hand and fingers. It occurs when pressure is put on a nerve in the wrist called the median nerve, which controls motor function in the wrist and hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed with tests such as an electromyogram or a nerve conduction study. It can often be effectively treated with nonsurgical therapies such as wrist splints, anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. In cases where pain and numbness persist, surgery (usually endoscopic surgery) may be necessary to relieve pressure on the nerve.
The hand is a complex structure made up of 27 different bones. A hand fracture can occur as a result of a direct blow to the hand or a fall onto outstretched hands. The most common hand fractures include injury to the pinkie side of the palm or the thumb.
Patients with a hand fracture often experience:
- Physical deformity
- Inability to move the fingers
- Shortened fingers
- Depressed knuckle
These symptoms can vary depending on which bone in the hand is broken.
It is important for patients to seek medical attention for a hand injury, even if it appears to be minor. Function of the hand relies on the proper alignment of the bones within it, so it is important to determine whether or not those bones have been moved as a result of your injury. Your doctor can diagnose a hand fracture physically examining the motion of the hand and position of the fingers, and also by performing an x-ray exam to confirm this diagnosis.
Treatment for a hand fracture can usually be performed through nonsurgical methods that include immobilizing the broken bones in a brace or cast. Patients will be required to wear this for three to six weeks as the bones heal, and may perform hand exercises once it is removed to restore function to the hand. Surgery may be required for severe fractures in order to realign the bones, which may require the use of wires, screws or plates.
For more information about our Hand Services, or to schedule an appointment, please call 978-454-0706.