With all of the bones and joints in the hand, it is no wonder that one of the most used parts of the body is prone to the pain and swelling of arthritis. Fortunately, there are many treatments available for arthritis in the hands. Treatment is best prescribed by an orthopedist or rheumatologist and the plan of action will depend on the progression of the arthritis.
Anti-inflammatories are usually first prescribed for arthritis in the hand. If the condition is not severe, over-the-counter ibuprofen is usually first given before prescription NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or corticosteroids. In addition, acetaminophen may be used to help with pain and, in severe cases, narcotics may also be prescribed for arthritis in the hands.
Supplements (also called neutraceuticals) can also be helpful for treatment of arthritis in the hand. Vitamin B Complex has been shown to help with nerve pain in the hand and may also help arthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin have been shown to help rebuild cartilage and may be used for arthritis in the hands.
Injections using a combination of steroids and anesthetic (like novocaine) can help alleviate the swelling the pain and swelling of arthritis of the hands. Injection therapy is sometimes given in a series, helping to ease pain and inflammation for weeks or months at a time.
The use of splints or braces to immobilize the hand can help in its healing. For arthritis in the hands, sometimes the best treatment is to allow the joints to rest. Splints can be worn to relieve pressure during activities, or just when the pain in the hands is especially bad. Long term use of splints, however, is not advised as it could lead to atrophy within the muscles from lack of use.
Physical and occupational therapy is often prescribed to help with arthritis in the hands. A physical therapist can show the patient exercises to use to ease pain as well as provide treatments such as paraffin baths, ultrasound and massage. Occupational therapists specialize in showing people how to alter everyday tasks to maximize their strengths and avoid putting strain on the arthritic hands.
Surgery is usually a last resort for arthritis in the hands, but will be discussed if all other options have failed. There are a number of procedures that can be performed, including: minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to reduce swelling; fusion (with screws and a plate) of the thumb base; and joint replacement.