Nonsurgical Hand & Wrist Arthritis Treatments

Treatment options for arthritis of the hand and wrist include:

    • medication
    • splinting
    • injection
    • surgery

Treatment is determined based on:

    • How many joints are involved
    • Your age, activity level and other medical conditions
    • If the dominant or non-dominant hand is affected
    • Your personal goals, home support structure, and ability to understand the treatment and comply with a therapy program

Medications

Medications treat symptoms but cannot restore joint cartilage or reverse joint damage. The most common medications for arthritis are anti-inflammatories, which stop the body from producing chemicals that cause joint swelling and pain.

Examples of anti-inflammatory drugs include medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Injections

When first-line treatment with anti-inflammatory medication is not appropriate, injections may be used. These typically contain a long-lasting anesthetic and a steroid that can provide pain relief for weeks to months.

The injections can be repeated, but only a limited number of times, due to possible side effects, such as lightening of the skin, weakening of the tendons and ligaments and infection.

Splinting

Injections are usually combined with splinting of the affected joint. The splint helps support the affected joint to ease the stress placed on it from frequent use and activities. Splints are typically worn during periods when the joints hurt. They should be small enough to allow functional use of the hand when they are worn.

Wearing the splint for too long can lead to muscle deterioration (atrophy). Muscles can assist in stabilizing injured joints, so atrophy should be prevented.

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