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What is osteoarthritis of the hand?

Osteoarthritis is a condition affecting the joints in the body. There is damage to the cartilage over joint surfaces which cause joints to move less smoothly causing pain and discomfort. It is very common for osteoarthritis to occur in the hands. The areas of the hand most likely to be affected include the base of the thumb, and the joints in the fingers. Physiotherapy is very important if you suspect you may have osteoarthritis of the hand.

What can cause osteoarthritis of the hand?

Osteoarthritis can be caused by a previous injury to the hand or because you have being overusing your hands over many years. This is known as secondary osteoarthritis. A family history of osteoarthritis or being overweight are two other reasons for the condition.

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the hand?

Your fingers and thumbs may become stiff and difficult to move. You may also notice cysts and lumps over the joints which is the extra bone (osteophytes) that has formed around the joint. It may become painful to move certain joints in the hand making activities such as writing and buttoning up a shirt very painful. Other symptoms may include:

What should I do if I have osteoarthritis of the hand?

If your symptoms are stopping you from doing your usual activities, you should see your doctor to confirm the diagnosis. You may be asked to have an X-ray to check the precise damage of the bones and joints but this is only in very severe cases. Surgery is a last resort and it is important to use conservative (non surgical) treatments to prevent this option. Physiotherapy is a very effective way of keeping the joints in your hand as strong and mobile as possible and reducing any pain that you may have.

What shouldn’t I do if I have osteoarthritis of the hand?

Do not ignore your symptoms of osteoarthritis of the hand if they are interfering with your activities of daily living and causing your pain. It is important to pace your activities and not overdo it but also to remain active as this will keep the muscles supporting the joint strong. Your physiotherapist will be able to advice you about pacing. Weight-bearing exercise is not recommended if your symptoms are very severe as it puts extra strain on the joints. This includes running on hard ground and playing competitive sports.

Physiotherapy for osteoarthritis of the hand.

Your physiotherapy programme will include advice on pacing and methods to help reduce your pain such as hot and cold packs and hydrotherapy. Electrotherapy techniques including Megapulse and TENS are also used as a form of pain relief. You may be given strengthening and range of movement exercises to keep your joints supple and strong. Adaptations for the home can also be discussed with your physiotherapist and these will help you carry out tasks without putting strain on your joints. Your physiotherapist can also use splints in the hand to rest affected joints. Other physiotherapy treatments can include:

Can osteoarthritis of the hand have any long-term effects?

If your symptoms do not get better, it may be recommended to have surgery to relieve your pain. Surgery is most common at the base of the thumb where the joint can either be replaced (arthroplasty) or fused together (arthrodesis). To minimise the need for surgery, it is important to keep the joints of the hand as strong and mobile as possible to add extra support to the area. Physiotherapy is a very effective way of achieving this.

To arrange a physiotherapy appointment call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 or book online.

Call us on: 0330 088 7800
Phone: 0330 088 7800
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