Non-operative Hand and Wrist Arthritis Treatments
Treatment options for arthritis of the wrist and hand include splinting, medication, and injections. The type of treatment prescribed depends on many factors:
- The degree to which the arthritis has progressed
- The number of joints involved
- The age, activity level, and overall health of the individual
- Whether the person's dominant or non-dominant hand is affected
- The individual's home support structure, personal goals, and ability to comprehend the treatment and comply with the therapy program.
It is important to remember that medications only treat the symptoms of arthritis and cannot reverse joint damage or restore joint cartilage. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID's) are the most common medications for arthritis. Once common example of an NSAID is Ibuprofen. These medications can help stop the body from producing the chemicals that cause pain and joint swelling. In addition, other medications such as Chondroitin sulfate and Glucosamine have been used for this purpose. Their effectiveness as treatment of wrist and hand arthritis has not been fully determined at this time, although it appears as though they may not be any more beneficial than the commonly used NSAID's.
Injections may be used when initial treatment with anti-inflammatory medication is not appropriate. These will typically contain a long-lasting anesthetic, similar to Novocain, along with a cortocosteroid designed to provide pain relief for weeks to months. Due to possible side effects, the injections may be only be repeated a limited number of times.
Splinting helps support the affected joint by easing the stress placed on it during activities. Splints are generally worn at those times when the joint hurts. They are designed to be small enough to allow the individual functional use of their hand while being worn. Splints should not be worn for too long of a period, however, for this can lead to muscle atrophy.