Osteoarthritis develops over the years, at the beginning without causing any onerous symptoms. Among many factors predisposing to the disease, mention is made of female gender, mature age and long-term joint overload. The process of degeneration can not be completely cured, but there are a number of therapeutic methods that slow its development and improve the quality of life of the patient. The lesions may include any joint, but they most often affect the hips, knees, spine, feet and hands. In this post we will check how the degeneration of the joints of the hands is going and how this disease can be treated.
Degenerative disease can occur regardless of gender, but most often attacks mature women in the perimenopausal period. In the case of changes involving the upper limbs, the predisposing factor is to perform manual work (operation of vibration machines and devices, work on the production line, sewing, knitting, hairdressing, floristry). Obesity, neglect of physical activity, repeated injuries, intense sports are other risk factors that result from the choice of the patient and his lifestyle.
Unfortunately, degeneration of the hand joints can develop without any “participation” of the patient – the disease is also promoted by anatomical defects of the joints and genetic load. Not infrequently other diseases (Lyme disease, RA, diabetes) and bacterial and viral infections contribute to the process of joint destruction. Due to the prevalence (over 50% in people over 40), it is believed that degenerative joint changes are partly a result of the body’s natural aging.
In the course of osteoarthritis, periods of stabilization are observed, during which the symptoms (pain, stiffness) show a constant intensity and occur mainly when moving hands. On the other hand, during the exacerbation phase, ailments intensify, which also annoy during the night and despite rest. In addition, inflammation can occur, causing exudations in the joints, which can be recognized by the enlarged contour of the occupied space. During this time, the patient complains about a typical inflammatory pain (also occurring at rest) and a strong stiffness of the hand. The edema caused by inflammation limits the mobility of the joint, and thus hinders the performance of basic activities such as washing, dressing, eating meals.
In patients with degeneration of the hand joints, the symptoms intensify especially when performing manual activities and lifting heavy objects. In some patients, pain can be observed especially when the weather changes. Another characteristic symptom of degenerative hand disease is the occurrence of nodules and erosions in the phalanges, which cause pain and make it difficult to move the fingers. Advanced joint damage leads to distortion of the hand and disability.
In patients complaining mainly of occasional pain, the treatment is limited to the ad hoc admission of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics, also in the form of spreads (ointments, gels, balms). When the symptoms worsen, the doctor may suggest steroids or hyaluronic acid given in direct injections. In addition, the patient is advised to take tablets with glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate – these compounds relieve pain and improve the functioning of joints.
Degeneration of hand joints with progressive deterioration of efficiency requires intensive non-pharmacological treatment, ie rehabilitation and physiotherapeutic procedures. Even simple exercises performed at home (squeezing the ball, joining the fingers) help to restore the mobility of sick joints. An important role in combating disability is also played by various manual therapy techniques. Patients suffering from chronic pain can be referred for treatments, including vortex baths, cryotherapy, ultrasound therapy and magnetotherapy. In addition to the analgesic effect, rehabilitation helps to relax the muscles of the hands and restore the mobility of the joints.
Treatment of joint degeneration of the hands also requires a responsible attitude of the patient – factors that worsen the condition of the joints, i.e. the wearing of weights, intense manual work, humidity and cold should be avoided. If there are no contraindications (eg circulatory disorders), you can use ice packs or warm wraps using a hot water bottle.