Do your fingers hurt when you try to open a jar? Hand osteoarthritis could be to blame. If you have this condition, pain and stiffness in your joints can make some basic tasks a whole lot harder. There’s no cure, but there are a lot of ways to protect your joints and ease your pain.
What’s the cause?
Osteoarthritis (OA) happens from wear and tear on your joints. On the ends of your bones, there’s a layer of smooth material called cartilage. It helps cushion the joints and allows them to slide easily. But over time, the cartilage gets worn down. The bones begin to rub against each other, causing the symptoms of hand OA.
Other things can increase your chances of OA in your hands, too. You’re more likely to get it if you’re:
Injuries, like broken bones or dislocations, can also raise the chances of OA, even if you got treatment for them, so can joint infections. Your genes play a role too, since OA can run in families.
Treating hand arthritis
Some home treatments that can help are:
Exercise and steps to protect your joints. An expert called a hand therapist can show you exercises and new strategies for everyday tasks. For example, instead of carrying grocery bags with your fingers, you could carry them over your forearm instead.
Assistive devices. A splint or sleeve can help hold your hand in a stable position to reduce pain. Special pens, kitchen utensils, and other tools with big grips may be easier to use.
Ice or heat. Ice may help reduce swelling and pain, while heat, like a warm washcloth or a paraffin bath, may help your joints loosen up.
Your doctor may also suggest different types of medications, such as:
Skin treatments. Medicated creams with painkillers can give you relief when you rub them on sore joints. Gels with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help.
Painkiller pills. Acetaminophen and NSAIDs like ibuprofen can ease the pain.
Cortisone shots. An injection into the joint may help, but the effects may wear off.
All these and more can be achieved at our outpatient centers (Great Neck and Farmingdale) as well as In-Home therapy settings to help maximize all potential and to improve quality of life and function.