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What is Hand & Wrist Arthritis?

Arthritis is a term used to describe a group of conditions that cause joint inflammation. In the hand and wrist, arthritis can affect any of the numerous small joints, leading to a range of symptoms that impact daily activities. The most common types of arthritis affecting the hand and wrist are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Types of Hand & Wrist Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA)

This is the most common type of arthritis and results from the wear and tear of cartilage, the protective tissue at the ends of bones. OA often affects the base of the thumb, the end joints of the fingers, and the wrist.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

This is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the synovium (the lining of the membranes that surround the joints). RA commonly affects the wrist and the joints closest to the hand, usually symmetrically.

Post-traumatic Arthritis

This type of arthritis develops after an injury to the hand or wrist, such as fractures or dislocations, leading to joint damage over time.

Causes and Risk Factors

The causes of hand and wrist arthritis can vary depending on the type of arthritis:

  • Age: The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age.
  • Genetics: A family history of arthritis can increase the likelihood of developing the condition.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men.
  • Injuries: Previous injuries to the hand or wrist can increase the risk of developing arthritis later in life.
  • Occupation: Jobs that involve repetitive hand and wrist movements can contribute to the development of arthritis.
  • Autoimmune Factors: Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune response where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.


Symptoms of hand and wrist arthritis can vary in severity and may include:

  • Persistent or intermittent pain in the joints, often worsening with activity
  • Reduced range of motion and stiffness, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity
  • Swelling around the affected joints due to inflammation
  • Decreased grip strength and difficulty performing tasks that require fine motor skills
    Changes in the shape of the joints, such as nodules or misalignment

Diagnostic Process

Diagnosing hand and wrist arthritis involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare provider, which typically includes:

  • Medical History: Discussing your symptoms, daily activities, and any previous injuries or medical conditions.
  • Physical Examination: Assessing the affected joints for pain, swelling, and range of motion. The doctor may also check for signs of joint deformity or muscle weakness.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound may be used to visualize the extent of joint damage and inflammation.
  • Blood Tests: For suspected rheumatoid arthritis, blood tests may be conducted to check for specific antibodies and markers of inflammation.

Treatment Options

Conservative Care

Many cases of hand and wrist arthritis can be managed with non-surgical treatments aimed at reducing symptoms and improving joint function:

  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as NSAIDs can help manage pain and inflammation. In some cases, prescription medications or corticosteroid injections may be necessary.
  • Splinting: Wearing a splint can support the affected joints, reduce pain, and improve function.
  • Physical Therapy: Specific exercises can help maintain joint flexibility, strengthen surrounding muscles, and reduce pain.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Changing activities to avoid joint strain, using adaptive devices, and applying heat or cold therapy can alleviate symptoms.

Surgical Treatment

When non-surgical treatments do not provide sufficient relief, or if there is significant joint damage, surgery may be necessary. At Excel Health, we prioritize minimally invasive surgical options to ensure the best outcomes and quickest recovery times.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Recovery from hand and wrist arthritis treatment involves a combination of rest, rehabilitation exercises, and regular follow-up appointments. For surgical treatments, initial recovery typically involves immobilizing the hand or wrist, followed by a structured physical therapy program to restore strength and flexibility. Adhering to your healthcare provider’s recommendations is crucial for optimal recovery and long-term joint health.

Managing Hand & Wrist Arthritis

Living with hand and wrist arthritis requires proactive management to alleviate symptoms and maintain joint function. This may include making ergonomic adjustments at work, using adaptive tools, performing regular exercises, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider will help monitor your condition and adjust treatments as needed.

If you suspect you have hand and wrist arthritis or are experiencing symptoms, contact Excel Health for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan. Our dedicated team is committed to providing the highest quality care to help you regain function and comfort in your daily activities.

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