Hand and Wrist Arthritis
Arthritis Specialist in Dallas, Texas
Arthritis is a common disease that causes joint pain, stiffness, immobility, and swelling. Arthritis is actually a term for a group of over 100 diseases that affect the muscle and skeletal system, particularly the joints. Arthritis alters the cartilage in joints. Cartilage is a very tough, shock absorbing material that covers the ends of many of our bones. The cartilage forms a smooth surface and allows the bones in our joints to glide easily during motion. Arthritis can cause the cartilage to wear away. Loss of the protective lining can cause painful bone on bone rubbing. Arthritis can be quite painful and disabling. While this may be tolerated with medications, therapy, other modalities, and lifestyle adjustments, there may come a time when surgical treatment is necessary.
Bones are the hardest tissues within the human body. Not only do they support our body structure, they meet to form joints. Cartilage covers the ends of most of our bones, forming a smooth surface for our bones to glide on during movement. Synovium lines the joint and secretes a thick liquid called synovial fluid. This acts as a cushion and lubricant between the joints, as well. It also reduces friction between the bones and prevents the normal “wear and tear.” Ligaments are strong tissues that connect our bones together and provide stability. They are also lined with synovium.
There are well over 100 different types of arthritis. Arthritis can occur for many reasons, including:
- “Wear and tear”
- Autoimmune disease
- Inflammatory disease
Arthritis usually affects the bones as well as the joints; however, it can affect other parts of the body, such as:
- Some internal organs.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It affects around 21 million Americans, and causes the cartilage covering the end of the bones to gradually wear away. This results in painful bone on bone rubbing. Also, called spurs or osteophytes can grow in the joint. It’s important to note that the bone spurs add to the pain and swelling, while disrupting movement. All of the joints may be affected by Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is definitely more painful in the weight bearing joints, including the spine, hip, and knee. Although it tends to develop as people grow older, osteoarthritis can occur in younger people as a result of an injury.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the more serious and disabling types of arthritis. Because it is a long-lasting autoimmune disease, it causes the synovium to become inflamed and painful. Rheumatoid Arthritis also causes joint swelling and deterioration. Pain, stiffness, and swelling are ongoing symptoms, even during rest. This type of arthritis most commonly occurs in the hand and foot joints. However, many joints may be involved at the same time, and to further insult the injury, tissues surrounding the joint may also be affected.
Inflammation is the main way to spot arthritis. This inflammation can cause your joints to feel painful, swollen, and stiff. These symptoms are most likely continuous, even when you are resting, making it difficult to sleep. Your joints will more than likely feel weak or unstable.
Diagnosis of Arthritis
A doctor can diagnose arthritis by conducting a physical examination. The doctor will more than likely ask about your symptoms and level of pain, and will then assess your muscle strength, joint motion, and joint stability. Blood tests and other labs may identify what type of arthritis you have.
X-rays are typically used to see the condition of your bones and joints, and to identify areas of arthritis or bone spurs. Sometimes an MRI may have to be used to see the tissues.
A bone scan may be ordered to identify the location of abnormal growth in a bone, such as bone spurs, cysts, or arthritis. This is a sensitive test that can indicate joint degeneration in early stages that may not yet be visible on plain x-rays and requires that you receive a small injection of a radioactive substance several hours before your test. The radioactive substance collects in your bones in areas where the bone is breaking down or repairing itself.
In most cases, arthritis can be treated with non-surgical methods. Sometimes, all that’s needed are temporary joint rest and pain relievers. Over-the-counter medication or prescription medication may be used to reduce pain and swelling. If your symptoms do not improve significantly, your doctor may suggest a cortisone shot.
Aquatic Therapy for Arthritis
Occupational or physical therapists can help you strengthen the muscles surrounding your joint. Aquatic therapy in a heated pool can be helpful. This is because the buoyancy of the water takes stress off the joints while exercising, and the resistance of the water can help strengthening efforts. Your therapists may also recommend applying heat to treat stiffness, and ice to decrease pain. Additionally, they may suggest splints, walkers, or canes to help relieve stress on your joints.
Acupuncture for Arthritis
Acupuncture is one of the best time-tested treatments for pain. With acupuncture, very fine needles are strategically placed around the body to block or interrupt pain pathways. This should be administered by a trained professional. Also, a variety of herbs and nutritional supplements have been shown to be helpful in treating arthritis. Two of which are glucosamine and chondroitin. Additionally, some research has also shown that a proper diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, with a minimum of fat, can benefit arthritis.
Exercise regimes, such as yoga and pilates, can improve arthritis pain. Physically, the stretching and strengthening provided by these programs has a direct positive effect for many with arthritis. Additionally, the stress-reducing relaxation that usually occurs from these types of exercise can have a significantly positive effect on arthritis pain.
Because arthritis is a degenerative and progressive disease, it will probably get worse over time. When non-surgical treatments no longer provide relief, surgery may be recommended. The type of surgery that you receive will depend on your type of arthritis, the severity of the arthritis, and your general health. The doctor will discuss appropriate surgical options to help you decide what is best for you.
There are several types of surgical procedures for arthritis.
- The surgeon may remove the diseased or damaged joint lining in an operation called a synovectomy.
- The bones in a joint may be realigned with a procedure called an osteotomy.
- The bones in a joint may also be fused together to prevent joint motion and relieve pain.
- In advanced arthritis, the damaged joint can be replaced with an artificial one. Artificial joints are made of metal, plastic, ceramics, or a combination of the materials, depending on the reason for surgery and where the joint is located, in the body.
Arthritis Surgery Recovery
Recovery from arthritis surgery is very individualized, as with every other surgery. Your recovery time will depend on the extent of your condition, the type of surgery performed, and the joint that was involved.
Generally, traditional open joint surgeries take several months to heal, again, depending on the joint. On the reverse side, minimally invasive surgery and arthroscopic surgery use smaller incisions and typically heal in a shorter amount of time, from several weeks to a few months. More often than not, you will be instructed to follow up with physical therapy.
For the most part, some types of arthritis and arthritis symptoms may be prevented. For example, for some types of arthritis it is helpful to reduce your weight or stop performing repetitive joint movements. The doctor will tell you if you should consult a physical therapist to learn how to use proper body mechanics to protect your joints during your daily activities.
Assistive devices, such as a walker, shower chair, or raised toilet seat may enable you to perform tasks while minimizing the stress on your joints. It may also be helpful to participate in aquatic therapy in a heated pool or exercise to keep your joints strong.
At SPORT, our orthopedic providers can help relieve the pain of a hand or wrist injury and restore your flexibility and range of motion. For an appointment at our Dallas or Frisco office, call (469) 200-2832 today or use our convenient online appointment request form.