How Arthritis Affects Your Hands (And What You Can Do About It)

Arthritis describes more than 100 conditions that cause inflammation of the joints. The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Joints affected by arthritis experience a decline in cartilage, the smooth, slippery connective tissue that cushions the space between bones. As cartilage degrades, bone hits bone, causing pain and loss of movement.

Your hands and wrists have multiple small joints that can be affected by arthritis, and the resulting pain and dysfunction interferes with your day-to-day tasks and comfort. At Maryland Orthopedic Group, our medical team diagnoses arthritis and offers treatment in Bethesda and Germantown, Maryland.

Look for the following signs of arthritis and seek treatment to restore as much function as possible.

Trouble with daily tasks

When your hands are healthy, you don’t realize how critical they are to daily movement. Swelling, stiffness, and pain from arthritis make it hard to do simple tasks, such as buttoning a shirt, tying a shoelace, or threading a needle. 

Strange joint sensations

As the cartilage wears away, you may feel like your joints are grinding against one another. Sometimes the joints feel unstable or loose. You may also feel notable heat at the joints due to inflammation

Development of cysts

If you have arthritis develop at the end joints of your fingers, you may see small cysts form, too. The cysts can then cause dents in the nail plates of arthritic fingers. 

Long-term disfigurement

Left untreated, your bones in arthritic joints may lose their normal shape and become disfigured. Joints may appear large and knotty due to bone changes, swelling, and cartilage loss. These deformities further contribute to pain and a poor range of motion.

Help yourself at home

Whatever you do, don’t stop challenging your joints to move. Exercise encourages circulation and prevents stiffness from becoming the new normal. We offer physical therapy services, which can show you ways to move your hands and resist immobility from setting in.

Your physical therapist can help you come up with new ways to do day-to-day activities, such as carrying grocery bags with your forearms or using dictation to write.

We can also offer you a splint or sleeve to help hold an arthritic hand stable, reducing looseness and pain. Items with larger grips, such as pens and kitchen tools, are easier to use if you’re hands are challenged.

Our team at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists can teach you how to use ice and heat, including heating pads, warm washcloths, and paraffin wax to ease pain and stiffness at home.

Other ways to ease the discomfort of arthritis and improve function include:

We can help you understand the pros and cons of these methods and how to use them to best restore comfort and function, and potentially delay progression of arthritis.

If surgery would benefit your condition, trust our team at Maryland Orthopedic Group to expertly perform the procedure. Arthritis can strike your wrists, too, and we’re available to help. 

Call us or schedule an appointment using our online tool for evaluation, diagnosis, and expert care.

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