Arthritis is an inflammation of your joints. Several types of arthritis can affect the wrist and hand: degenerative and systematic. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are systematic, inflammatory types, whereas osteoarthritis is in the degenerative category where the cartilage wears down over time.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the fingers and hand most often, except for the thumb. In that case, thumb arthritis is usually a form of osteoarthritis. To understand how these diseases affect the hand and wrist, we first need to understand the hand and wrist anatomy.
Your hand is made up of two types of bones: phalanges and metacarpals. There are a total of 19 of these bones in your hand. Each finger has three phalanges, and the thumb has two. The phalanges connect to the metacarpal bones, which are long, thin bones that stretch from the fingers to the bones that compose the wrist.
Those bones are connected by tendons and ligaments that stretch to the wrist and arm bones and allow movement of your hand. Nerves and blood vessels weave through all the tendons, ligaments, and bones.
Your wrist comprises a complex of bones that essentially sit atop your two arm bones (the radius and the ulna). These bones, called carpal bones, are situated in two rows. The upper road connects to the end of the metacarpals located in your palm, while the lower row connects to the arm. The tendons and ligaments that connect the forearm to the hand pass through the wrist, as do the nerves and blood vessels that feed the fingers.
This collection of multiple bones gives your wrist and hands an extraordinary range of motion compared to most of your other joints. Arthritis can change all that.
Arthritis in the wrist or the joints of your fingers can severely limit that broad motion, making it difficult to use your hands. The first signs of arthritis are pain and stiffness, which make using your hands more difficult. You may also experience swelling in your hand, wrist, or both.
Some arthritis, such as systematic arthritis, may be challenging to prevent. Degenerative arthritis such as osteoporosis is caused by repeated use of a joint over time, so there are ways to reduce the chances of getting arthritis by reducing the repeated stress on the joint. For example, architects or artists who use a mouse to draw on the computer may consider using other tools, such as a digital pen and tablet, and rotating between them to reduce the stress on your wrist. Wrist supports or braces can also help to relieve certain types of stress.
Assistive technology can help alleviate the pain or swelling of arthritis or can reduce the chances of getting arthritis. Please speak with us to learn more about this technology!
Treatment for arthritis can vary depending on the type of arthritis and its severity. Treatment can range from medication such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen) to physical therapy. In some cases, you may need surgery to reduce or eliminate pain.