Hand and wrist arthritis

Older lady arthritis in hands

Arthritis means "inflamed joint." It can affect any joint in the body, including the joints of the wrist, hand and fingers. Arthritis of the hand causes pain that often keeps you from doing your day-to-day activities.

Types of hand and wrist arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis— the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage (the shock absorber in the joint) breaks down and wears away. When this happens, the bones grind against each other, causing pain, stiffness and limited range of motion.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis—when the body's immune system attacks the joints. This is an autoimmune disorder that must be managed in order to prevent hand and wrist joint deformities and damage to internal organs. 

Hand and wrist arthritis symptoms    

Signs and symptoms of hand and wrist arthritis include: 

  • Joint inflammation

  • Joint pain 

  • Joint stiffness 

  • Limited movement in hand or wrist 

  • Loss of range of motion

  • Swelling 

  • Warmth in hand or wrist joint 

Hand and wrist arthritis diagnosis    

Experts at The Christ Hospital Health Network want to help you get back to your active life. During your visit, your doctor reviews your health history and conducts a thorough exam of your hand and wrist joints to determine the location of the pain and inflammation. 

Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — uses large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body to determine damage or disease in a surrounding ligament or muscle of the hand and wrist.

  • X-ray — make images of the hand and wrist bones and their surrounding soft tissues. 

Hand and wrist arthritis treatment 

Treatment for hand and wrist arthritis is tailored specifically to each patient. 

  • Activity modification—resting the hand or wrist joint by adjusting your activity level.

  • Cortisone injections—an anti-inflammatory steroid injected into the joint area to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. 

  • Heat—use a heating pad to warm up the joints before engaging in daily activities or exercise.  

  • Ice—apply ice to the affected area (three times a day; 10-20 minutes at a time) to relieve soreness and inflammation. 

  • Medication—includes non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. Prescription-strength NSAIDs are frequently used for arthritis as well. 

  • Physical therapy—regular exercise and stretching to tone hand and wrist muscles through physical therapy exercises. 

  • Surgery—Depending on the severity and duration of your arthritis symptoms, your doctor may recommend minimally invasive arthroscopy surgery or joint replacement surgery as a treatment option.

Experts at The Christ Hospital Health Network are here to help manage your symptoms, reduce pain and treat joint damage caused by arthritis of the hand or wrist. 

Find a hand and wrist specialist near you.