Effective Ways to Ease Arthritic Hand Pain

Effective Ways to Ease Arthritic Hand Pain

Hand Arthritis: Debunking Common Treatment Myths

Arthritis affects millions of people worldwide, causing pain and stiffness in their hands. To alleviate these symptoms, many individuals turn to steroid or hyaluronic acid injections directly into their finger joints. However, a new review suggests that these injections may not provide the relief they promise.

The study, which examined the effectiveness of various treatments for hand osteoarthritis, found that joint injections were no better than placebo injections. This revelation calls into question the widespread recommendation of these injections in treatment guidelines. Additionally, current treatment recommendations often advocate for topical pain relievers as the initial therapy for hand osteoarthritis, despite uncertain evidence supporting their effectiveness.

So, what does work in relieving the pain of hand arthritis? According to Dr. Anna Døssing, a rheumatology resident at the Parker Institute in Copenhagen, oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and oral glucocorticoids are more effective in reducing pain. Among these medications, glucocorticoid (steroid) pills were found to be the most effective, improving function and the overall health-related quality of life in individuals with hand osteoarthritis.

The study, which reviewed 65 studies involving nearly 5,250 people with hand osteoarthritis, also examined the efficacy of other treatments. The researchers found that hydroxychloroquine, an arthritis medication that affects the immune system, and topical creams and gels for pain relief had questionable effectiveness for hand arthritis.

The surprising lack of effectiveness of intra-articular glucocorticoids, a commonly used treatment for hand arthritis, is a remarkable finding highlighted by Dr. Daniel Polatsch, co-director of The New York Hand and Wrist Center of Lenox Hill Hospital. This discovery goes against the prevailing beliefs and experiences of many hand surgeons, demonstrating the need for individualized treatment approaches.

Dr. Polatsch suggests commencing treatment with options that carry the lowest risk. Short-term usage of oral NSAIDs or glucocorticoids is a reasonable approach. However, it is essential to consider the potential side effects of long-term use. Prolonged use of NSAIDs has been associated with bleeding ulcers, while oral steroids can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, thinning skin, and infections.

To determine the best course of action, Dr. Polatsch recommends discussing the available treatment options with a healthcare professional and formulating a plan together. In cases where symptoms persist, consulting a hand surgery specialist is advisable. These specialists can assess the full spectrum of alternatives, including medication, splinting, hand therapy, injections, and, if necessary, surgery.

Hand arthritis can be a debilitating condition for many individuals. By challenging the effectiveness of traditional treatments and exploring alternative options, patients can find relief and improve their overall quality of life. It is crucial to stay informed and work closely with healthcare professionals to devise a personalized treatment plan. Remember, a hand surgery specialist can provide specialized expertise and guide you towards the most suitable treatment approach for your specific needs.