Hand Arthritis

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What is hand and wrist arthritis?

In a healthy joint, connective tissue, called cartilage, caps the end of the bones. And a thick liquid, called synovial fluid, lubricates it. This allows for smooth, normal movement.

When a joint develops osteoarthritis, it means that the cartilage has begun to wear away and the joint surface has become rough and irregular. Sometimes this prevents the joint from moving correctly. As the cartilage wears down further, the ends of the bones may begin to rub against each other. This results in further damage, increased pain, and bone spurs.

Although arthritis can occur in any of the joints of the hand and wrist, it is most often seen in the fingers and at the base of the thumb.

What is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common arthritis and may affect joints anywhere in the body.


  • Affects virtually everyone as they age
  • Is more common in women than in men
  • Affects 60 percent of adults over age 60 and 80 to 90 percent of patients over age 75

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the entire body, especially the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis:

  • May begin in your hands and wrists as well as your ankles and feet
  • Often affects the same joints on each side of your body
  • Does not have a known cause, although genetics play a role

What causes arthritis?

Many factors contribute to arthritis. They include:

  • Prior traumatic injury
  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Some inflammatory diseases

What are the common symptoms of hand and wrist arthritis?

Symptoms of arthritis in your hand or wrist can include:

  • Pain (when severe, pain can wake you at night)
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness or a decreased ability to move the joint
  • Clicking or grinding sensation
  • Less pinch and grip strength

How is hand and wrist arthritis diagnosed?

Arthritis is diagnosed by an X-ray and a physical examination of your hand.

What are my treatment options for hand and wrist arthritis?

Although there are no known medications or treatments that can prevent arthritis, there are many treatment options available to minimize your symptoms. New medications and surgical treatments that provide pain relief will help you get back to the many everyday activities you used to enjoy.

Treatments for your osteoarthritis include:

  • Lifestyle changes (modifying or stopping activities that cause pain)
  • Exercise and strength training
  • Heat or ice
  • Splinting
  • Massage
  • Water therapy
  • Pain medications, such as acetaminophen
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen
  • Prescription anti-inflammatory medications, such as celecoxib
  • Cortisone tablets
  • Cortisone injections
  • Gentle exercise of joint
  • Surgery

What can I expect my results to be after treatment?

Everyone responds to treatment differently. The primary focus of treatment is to reduce your pain, improve your motion, and slow the progression of the disease. With arthritis, treatment can be ongoing and may include adapting your everyday activities in order to decrease your symptoms and improve your function.

Talk to your Summit specialist about what you can expect with your specific situation. When surgery is recommended, it usually takes several months to get your strength back to normal.

Summit Orthopedics provides personalized hand and wrist expertise

The function of our hands is integrated through our wrists and arms to our shoulders; a problem anywhere along our arm may have a significant impact on hand function and quality of life. If you experience an injury or uncomfortable symptoms, our fellowship-trained hand and wrist surgeons are here to help. Summit physicians receive the highest levels of training and exclusively provide individualized care for conditions of the hand, wrist, and elbow.

Start your journey to better function and less pain. Find your hand expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation. Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

Related resources for you

  • Check out more on Nerves in Hand
  • Ask Dr. Parisi: Questions to Ask About Hand Surgery
  • Ask Dr. Parisi: Questions for Your Hand Surgeon
  • Learn about Summit’s Hand Services
  • Watch video: Reasons for Hand Pain

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