What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis occurs in joints where there is degradation of the surrounding tissues and to the cartilage surface (smooth slippery covering at the ends of the bones) causing pain, inflammation, stiffness, weakness, instability and reduced function.
The Types of Arthritis
The main types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis but others include gout, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile arthritis, lupus and scleroderma.
Osteoarthritis generally occurs as we age and is from degenerative wear and tear at the joints due to many years of loading, and functional use. The most common joints involved are the base of the thumb, tips of the fingers, back, neck, knees and hips.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition, mainly affecting the hands and wrist. The immune system mistakes normal joint tissue as foreign and starts attacking it, resulting in inflammation, pain and breakdown of the bone/cartilage/soft tissue.
Whilst arthritis cannot be reversed, many treatment options are available to help reduce pain, prevent further deformity and improve function/quality of life. These include;
Your hand therapist can assess your hand and daily needs to determine what splint is right for you. Sometimes night splints are required to help rest the hand and place the joints in a functional position to prevent deformity and reduce pain. Other splints can help with functional activities by providing support. Splints are custom made and either soft neoprene or thermoplastic.
Maintaining joint range of motion, proprioception and strength of the muscles will help to maintain joint stability, prevent deformity, and maximise joint loading/efficiency, all helping to reduce pain and inflammation. Your therapist can design an exercise program suited to your needs.
It’s important to stay active to maintain overall physical activity, muscle strength, endurance and maintain a healthy weight.
Medications can help with arthritis. These would be monitored and prescribed by your GP or Rheumatologist. Anti-inflammatory cream can be helpful to reduce pain and swelling.
Surgery may be warranted and beneficial in some cases. Your therapist can discuss with you if this is the best option and arrange review with a specialist.
If you have ay questions about arthritis, hand therapy or would like to book an appointment, please feel free to get in touch here. We’d be more than happy to help.