Osteoarthritis – thumb, hand and wrist

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease where the articular (joint) surfaces become damaged over time.  The normal joint cartilage becomes worn, narrowing the space between the two bones and causing pain as the joint moves.  Small cysts and osteophytes (extra spurs of bone) may form on the joint surfaces, which also limits normal joint movement.

Osteoarthritis may be linked to a previous injury, including fractures through the joint or damage to the surrounding ligaments.  It is also thought to have a hereditary component.

Symptoms include:

  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Reduced range of movement
  • Localised swelling
  • Joint deformity (normally seen in later stages)

Hand therapists are able to advise patients on how to look after their joints, with the aims of promoting function and preventing deformity.  Therapists can also provide advice about managing pain and the use of energy conservation techniques.  If necessary, your hand therapist will also fabricate custom-made splints for rest and pain relief or to provide functional support.

Hand surgeons may be consulted regarding specific joint or soft tissue damage that may be helped with surgery or injection therapy including inflamed joints, tendons that have ruptured or damaged joints that require replacement with a prosthetic joint.

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