How to treat Arthritis in the Hands

arthritis in hands

Image: Shutterstock/ MILA Zed

Arthritis is a painful, debilitating condition and when you suffer from arthritis in the hands, living a normal life becomes extremely difficult. After all, think of all the daily tasks that would quickly become impossible if simply moving your fingers was excruciatingly painful. That’s the reality of people who suffer from chronic pain conditions like arthritis.

And there are so many different types of arthritis and possible causes of the condition that treating it can be difficult. So, let’s talk about some of the possible reasons that you might be struggling with arthritis in the hands and what you can do about it.

What Causes Arthritis?

Arthritis is a surprisingly complicated condition. And it’s estimated that there are more than 150 different types of arthritis. But on the most basic level, all arthritis arises when the protective lining of the joints, the synovium, becomes worn down. As a result, the joints no longer function correctly and the bones can’t move smoothly against them. And we can boil down the condition to two specific categories: inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritis.

The most recognizable type of inflammatory arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. In cases of rheumatoid arthritis, which is a condition caused by a malfunction of the immune system. In a healthy immune system, your cells produce antibodies that target and destroy bacteria and viruses. But when you have RA, these antibodies begin to attack your own tissue instead. This leads to a breakdown of the synovium and painful joints.

On the other hand, the most common type of non-inflammatory arthritis is osteoarthritis. In cases of osteoarthritis, the joints get worn down from the regular wear and tear of life. This causes the bones to scrape together when you move, leading to pain and swelling.

Both conditions can affect joints all over the body, but often these problems manifest themselves in the hands, which makes moving the fingers painful and difficult. That’s particularly true after a long period of rest, which is why people with arthritis often find that the joints in their hands are painful and stiff when they wake up.

How Can You Treat It?

The way you need to treat your arthritis is based on which type of arthritis you have. But in any case of arthritis, you want to protect your joints and reduce the amount of pain you experience.

For inflammatory arthritis, the first step is to reduce inflammation which can damage your joints further over time. And there are a few different medications that are commonly used to control inflammation.

The first are NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs include basic, over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen. This type of medication blocks the production of enzymes that cause inflammation and can help reduce the pain of arthritis.

There are also corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are a hormone that your body releases naturally in response to inflammation. But synthetic sources of corticosteroids can also be used to help bolster your body’s natural response. And corticosteroids are available in both pill form and topical creams you can rub directly on the joints.

Finally, RA is often treated with immunosuppressant drugs. Immunosuppressants lower the activity of your body’s immune system, causing it to produce fewer antibodies. This means that fewer antibodies will be attacking your joints, which leads to less inflammation. These drugs do carry certain risks since the fact that they weaken your immune system means that you’ll be more vulnerable to infection.

For cases of non-inflammatory arthritis, your options for treatment are a bit more limited. NSAIDs can still be useful since they help to reduce the amount of pain you experience and can reduce inflammation, which leads to further damage to the joints. And stronger types of painkillers, such as opiates, might be necessary to control the pain of severe arthritis.

Getting adequate rest and keeping your joints from getting strained is useful for limiting pain and protecting your joints. And on bad days you can ice the affected areas to reduce swelling and pain.

If non-invasive options don’t seem to be effective, there are surgeries to help resolve arthritis. For arthritis in the hands, a joint replacement procedure may be necessary. Essentially, the procedure works by inserting an artificial, plastic joint in between the bones of the hand. This artificial joint works in the same way as the synovium, providing a cushion for the bones to move against. This can help reduce the pain and get your joints functioning normally.

But let us know, do you suffer from arthritis? What works for you? What doesn’t? Tell us in the comments.