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Hand & Wrist Pain Caused by Arthritis


The two most common types of Arthritis that are found in the wrist and hand are:

1. Osteoarthritis
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis found in the wrist and hand. It is due to:

1. The normal wear and tear that our joints undergo during our lifetime. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cushioning cartilage that covers the bone surfaces at our joints begins to wear out. As the cartilage becomes worn down, bone rubs against bone producing pain. The saying is true: "If you live long enough, you will develop osteoarthritis."

2. Or, it may be due to an injury of a joint. This injury can be due to over-utilization of the joint, a fracture, or surgery on a joint.

ArthritisThe most commonly affected joints in the hand are:
1. The thumb joint, where the thumb joins the hand (the carpometacarpal joint).
2. The middle finger joints (the proximal interphalangeal joints).
3. The last joint in the finger (the distal interphalangeal joint).

The most common symptoms that one may experience are:
1. Brief period of morning stiffness (15 minutes or less).
2. Aching pain in one or more joints which increases with use, and is relieved by rest.
3. Pain is not migratory. This means that symptoms are usually experienced in the same joint, rather than in one joint today and a different joint tomorrow.
4. The affected joint usually appears swollen, and this swelling feels "hard." However, there is no redness or increased warmth around the joint. This hardness is due to nodules that form around the joint.
5. The affected joint is tender when you apply pressure to it.
6. The range of motion of the joint is usually limited.
7. Weather changes may produce stiffness and pain in the affected joint.
8. Osteoarthritic pain of the thumb is most notable with activities that require one to grip and apply pressure to an object with the thumb and fingers.

The pathology of osteoarthritis begins with an uneven wearing down of the joint cartilage, which may be due to over utilization of the joint, an injury to the joint, or the normal aging process. This produces a narrowing of the joint space, and finally bone begins to rub against bone. When bone rubs against bone we may experience pain, stiffness, decreased movement of the joint, swelling, bone spur formation at the edges of the joint surface (nodule formation), and a grinding sound or feeling when the joint is moved.

Treatment of osteoarthritic joints:
The most successful treatment is to protect the affected joint by limiting its movement. This is best accomplished by wearing a brace or splint. This is the "gold standard" of medical treatment the treatment most recognized by all of medicine to be effective, especially in the early stages of osteoarthritis. Protecting the joint/joints will ensure:

1. a reduction in joint pain
2. a slow down in the progress of the disease within the affected joints
3. a reduction in the chances of injuring other joints in the hand and wrist.

If we have a painful joint, or joints, we subconsciously force ourselves to use our wrist, fingers, and thumb in an abnormal way, so as to try and keep all pressure off of the painful joint. When we do this, we apply abnormal and excessive pressure on other joints of the hand. This is called compensation. This compensation leads to over-utilization of these joints, and new sites of osteoarthritis.

20000 Recommended Braces and Splints

The following splints, braces, and supports are considered the most effective for helping arthritis sufferers reduce their pain, while continuing to allow the most hand and finger dexterity. Click here for more information.


Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic disease which may cause inflammatory changes throughout the soft tissues of the body, not just the joints.

The cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
It is thought that Rheumatoid Arthritis is the result of our immune system mistakenly identifying the soft tissue membranes within the joints (the synovial membranes) as foreign bodies. This results in an inflammatory response by our body, as our immune system tries to defend the joints by destroying these protective synovial membranes. The attacked synovial membranes become inflamed and swollen, and this produces pain and swelling of the joints. The synovial membranes are composed of connective tissue, so the immune system may turn against other connective tissue structures, thus possibly affecting the entire body.

ArthritisThe most commonly affected joints are:
1. The joints that make up our wrists.
2. The finger knuckles (the metacarpophalangeal joints the joints where the fingers attach to the hand).

The most common symptoms that one may experience are:
1. Prolonged stiffness in one or more joints. This stiffness may last for one or more hours.
2. Aching pain which becomes more severe with use, and may not be relieved with rest, or may take a considerable amount of time to subside.
3. Classically this disease affects comparable joints in both wrists and hands at the same time. This is called bilateral or symmetrical joint involvement.
4. The affected joints appear swollen and inflamed. The swelling is usually a soft "spongy" type of swelling. There is also an increased warmth felt around the joint.
5. The affected joints are tender and/or painful when pressure is applied to them.
6. The range of motion of the affected joints is limited and painful.
7. The above symptoms may be "migratory" in nature. One day one joint is affected, the next day a different joint.
8. A creaking sound (crepitus) during movement of the joint.

The pathology of Rheumatoid Arthritis:
The synovial membranes within the joint becomes inflamed due to repeated attacks by our immune system. During these attacks a gritty substance called pannus is formed. The pannus in turn erodes the cartilage, bone, and ligaments. This produces a "soft swelling" around the joint. Due to the erosion of the cartilage there is an even narrowing of the joint space. This causes bone to move against bone, which in turn causes pain within the joint. Eventually, the cartilage becomes completely destroyed, and the bones at the joint begin to fuse, producing a painful, swollen, inflamed, and motionless joint.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the thumb, wrist, and hand:
The most successful treatment is to protect the joint/joints, during normal daily activities. This is best accomplished by wearing a brace or splint. Wearing a brace or splint will ensure:

1. reduction in joint pain
2. significant slow down in the progress of the disease within the affected joints
3. a reduction in the chances of injuring other hand and wrist joints during normal daily activities.

If we have a painful joint, or joints, we subconsciously force ourselves to use unaffected joints in an abnormal way, so as to try and keep all pressure off of the painful joint. When we do this, we apply abnormal and excessive pressure on other joints of the wrist and hand. This is called compensation. This compensation leads to over-utilization of these joints; and eventually, we develop pain and osteoarthritic changes in these joints.

20000 Recommended Braces and Splints

The following splints, braces, and supports are considered the most effective for helping arthritis sufferers reduce their pain, while continuing to allow the most hand and finger dexterity. Click here for more information.


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