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Osteoarthritis of Hand

Introduction

Osteoarthritis is a disease caused by degeneration due to repetitive usage. It is common among the elderly, and can affect the knee and finger joints.

Osteoarthritis of hand

Osteoarthritis of hand is mainly due to aging of the finger joints, decreased secretion of synovial fluid and thinning of cartilage. Improper postures and activities like the carrying of heavy objects increase stress on the finger joints, worsening the condition and leading to more pain.

Symptoms

Common symptoms include joint pain, swelling, warmth and stiffness of fingers. Prolonged inflammation leads to reduced activity of fingers, and can result in muscle weakness and wasting. If there is also improper posture and activity, there may be permanent joint deformity.

Treatment

There is no cure for Osteoarthritis of hand. Rest and painkillers can help to relieve the pain. However, drugs should be used as advised by a doctor to minimize side-effects. By adopting finger joint protection techniques and adaptive method in daily life, it is possible to reduce pain and inflammation, and prevent further deterioration or permanent deformity of the fingers.

Caring Tips for Osteoarthritis of Hand:

  • Proper positioning:
    During acute inflammation, support and elevate the hand by using a firm pillow or folded towel in bed so as to relieve symptoms.
  • Adequate rest:
    Avoid overuse of the diseased hand.
    If necessary, use elastic bandage to relieve swelling and fix the hand in a desired position.
  • Gentle hand exercise:
    Simple hand exercise can help to improve circulation and reduce joint swelling and stiffness.
    Make a fist gently, then open the hand fully but slowly. Repeat 20 times and do this one to twice daily.
  • Massage
    For chronic inflammation, gentle massage can improve circulation. Elevate the hand, then use the well hand to massage the diseased hand from the fingertips to the wrist and elbow. Continue for 15-20 minutes. Repeat two to three times daily.

Ice therapy and Heat therapy:

Choose the appropriate method according to the symptoms. In general, use ice treatment for acute condition; and heat treatment for chronic condition. (please refers to the pages on 'Heat therapy' and 'Cold therapy') Apply the therapy two to three times daily for 15-20 minutes, to help improve circulation and reduce the inflammation. In case of queries, consult a doctor or physiotherapist.

Finger Joints Protection

  • Do not ignore pain
    When the finger joints are painful, stop the activity immediately to reduce pain and avoid unnecessary damage to the joints.
  • Change positions frequently
    Do not maintain the finger joints in the same position for too long to avoid stiffness and pain. Stretch and relax areas that are tired or tight.
  • Maintain proper posture of finger and avoid certain positions
    Avoid prolonged bending of the fingers and turning movements e.g. turning water tap and wringing towel.
  • Use larger and stronger joints
    Use the larger and stronger joints for heavy work, e.g. use a shoulder bag or knapsack instead of a carrying bag.
  • Reduce energy loss at work
    Organize your work and procedures. Leave time for rest by alternating different activities. Use assistive appliances e.g. buy minced meat, using washing machine, choose shoes without shoestrings or with velcro.
  • Balance between rest and activity
    Balance work and leisure activities by taking short breaks and alternate between heavy and light activities throughout the day. You may need to take longer breaks when the joints become painful.