Arthritis of the Wrist and Hands

General Information

Wear and tear takes a toll on all of our joints; the joints used most are the most susceptible. Osteoarthritis is common in the wrist and hand. In addition to generalized arthritis, damage occurs in individual joints in the hand and wrist because of the frequent performance of a particular task. For example, knitting and crocheting are particularly hard on the joint at the base of the thumb.

Arthritic diseases other than osteoarthritis also commonly affect the hand and wrist. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs there. Gout may involve the hand and wrist as well.

Joint disease causes pain in the joint, with swelling, redness, and stiffness. Pain may be present only on motion or at rest as well. Report these signs and symptoms to your physician.

In addition, joint disease may cause inflammation of the tendons. Inflamed tendons also cause pain on motion and tenderness around the joint. Sometimes swelling and redness also are present. Occasionally joints or tendons catch, and the joint locks temporarily. Sometimes chronic changes become evident only after a minor injury.

Important Points in Treatment
The specific treatment for arthritis depends on its cause. Many general measures help control symptoms. Inflamed joints and tendons need rest. At the same time, joints particularly need to retain their full range of motion, and the muscles moving the joints need enough exercise to prevent muscle wasting and atrophy. Accomplish this by alternating periods of rest of the joint with careful exercise. Select exercises with your physician or a physical therapist.

Application of heat can be helpful in reducing pain and discomfort. Use heat carefully to avoid injuring tissues. This is not a case in which hotter is better. Patients with vascular disease must be particularly careful about the application of heat.

Anti-inflammatory drugs, administered either as pills or by injection, are used to improve the symptoms of pain and stiffness. Many powerful drugs are available without a prescription. These medications have serious side effects, some even with normal doses. The pharmacy may be an inexpensive source for these medicines, but your physician is still the best counsel regarding selection and dosage.

Notify Our Office If

  • You have new onset of swelling or pain in a joint.
  • You have locking of a joint when you try to move it.
  • You have heat in a joint, particularly with fever or chills.
You have dark stools or blood in your bowel movements, particularly if you are taking arthritis medicines.