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What you should know about osteoarthritis

You wake up in the morning with aches, pains, and everything feeling stiff. The day goes on, and you feel pain in the joints of your hands and your knuckles are swelling. Your wrists and fingers are sore after doing simple, everyday activities like typing, cooking, doing laundry, and gardening.

Sound familiar? While minor aches and pains are common as you age, you could be experiencing the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis. It’s worth talking to a hand specialist who diagnoses and treats the condition, to not only know for sure, but also to know what to do about it.

What exactly is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it typically affects the hands and wrists when cartilage between the bones starts to break down or become damaged due to genetics, age, and/or overuse. Characterized by joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation, osteoarthritis can significantly impact your quality of life. It affects over 30 million adults in the U.S., so recognizing and addressing the early signs is important. Without proper medical care, it’s a condition that can and will impact your functionality and quality of life.

How can it be treated and managed?

For the majority of patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the main goal of treatment is to preserve function and mobility, and to be able to continue living a fulfilling and happy life, with little to no pain. Your treatment plan may include a combination of:

  1. Medications. Over-the-counter or prescription-strength medications can relieve pain and reduce swelling in the joints. In more advanced cases of osteoarthritis, steroid injections may be recommended by your hand specialist.
  2. Physical therapy. Strengthening the muscles that connect to the hands and wrists can improve your flexibility and function. A physical therapist will recommend specific exercises based on the location and type of pain you are experiencing. Over time, these exercises can reduce the pain you are experiencing during everyday activities.
  3. Non-drug therapies. Splinting or bracing the affected hand or wrist and the application of ice or heat may also help ease arthritis pain and swelling.
  4. Surgery. If conservative treatments are proven to be ineffective, your hand specialist may recommend surgery to remove the damaged cartilage or replace damaged joints.

Who can help?

Beebe Healthcare partners with a number of local specialists who treat conditions of the hand and wrist, including arthritis. Talk to your primary care provider today about a possible referral. Visit our Orthopaedics Service Page to learn more.