One of the most common regions of the body affected by osteoarthritis is the thumb and fingers. The joints at the base of the thumb--the CMC (carpometacarpal) and MCP (metacarpophalangeal)--joints are the most commonly affected joints in the hand, followed by the smaller joints of the fingers (the IP, or interphalangeal joints). The joints of the wrist can also be affected, but much less commonly than the fingers. Keep in mind that we're talking about osteoarthritis (the "wear and tear" kind), not Rhuematoid Arthritis, which is a destructive inflammatory medical condition that affects the joints. Pain in these joints nonetheless can be debilitating, affecting both work and recreational activities. We offer solutions for treating arthritis of the hands, wrists, and fingers in Glastonbury, CT at Valley Sports Physicians & Orthopedic Medicine.
Symptoms of Wrist & Hand Arthritis include stiffness and pain that classically is worst after long periods of inactivity (such as first thing in the morning) and pain after prolonged or strenuous use. Light activity tends to help, while more strenuous activities seem to aggravate it. Affected joints can become enlarged or swollen, and they can be tender to touch and move. Grip strength can weaken over time, not so much because the muscles weaken, but because pain in the joints inhibits muscle function. In spite of joint enlargement and swelling, osteoarthritis does NOT tend to cause severe deformities like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Diagnosing wrist & hand osteoarthritis is based on the physical exam and x-rays. Lab tests are not needed to make the diagnosis but may be helpful to identify other possible causes, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, keep in mind that just because an x-ray shows arthritis it doesn't mean that the arthritis is the cause of the pain. We often see patients who have worse arthritis on x-ray in the joints that don't hurt! Often, to help confirm the diagnosis we'll simply inject the suspected joint(s) with a little anesthetic to numb the joint. If the pain goes away, we found the culprit. But if it doesn't go away, we need to keep looking!