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Is Osteoarthritis Treatable?

Updated: Jun 14

Many people consider osteoarthritis to be an inevitable part of old age. While it certainly

does become more common with age and there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, seeing a hand therapist can help to make living with hand arthritis easier.

A comparison x-ray demonstrating narrowing of joint spaces due to cartilage loss from osteoarthritis

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of cartilage, the smooth, flexible coating on the bones where two bones meet to form a joint. Cartilage acts as a shock absorber for our joints and is responsible for the frictionless movement of joints. When the cartilage breaks down, the underlying bone is gradually exposed leading to pain, swelling and stiffness.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

Deformities of the fingers and thumb due to OA

Osteoarthritis often first appears in the end joints of the fingers (DIP joints) or in the joint at the base of the thumb (CMC joint). Osteoarthritis typically affects different joints at different times. The affected joints may become sore and appear more knobbly, or start to go crooked. The pain may vary from a dull ache to a very sharp pain with certain movements.

Deformities of the fingers and thumb due to OA

Over time, joints affected by osteoarthritis tend to become stiff as the cartilage becomes thinner and the space between the bones becomes narrower. Small bony spurs called osteophytes may form around the edges of the joints which produces the knobbly appearance. Swelling can also be present which adds to the pain and stiffness of the joint.

Hand Therapy Treatment for Osteoarthritis

At Bayside Hand Therapy we offer a range of pain-relieving modalities including wax bath treatment, therapeutic ultrasound, InterX neurostimulation and dry needling. We stock a range of arthritis gloves which help to reduce the pain and swelling associated with arthritis.

Patient wearing a splint to support the painful thumb due to CMC joint osteoarthritis

When arthritis affects the joint at the base of the thumb, everyday tasks like unscrewing jars, pulling up pants, weeding the garden and writing, can become difficult or impossible to perform. There are some excellent supports available which help to stabilise the joint at the base of your thumb, allowing you to use your hand with less pain. Our therapists can also custom-make a light-weight plastic splint to support the painful joint if required.

Hand therapists can also teach you exercises to help to maintain optimal mobility of the stiff joints, and to strengthen the muscles which stabilise the thumb.

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