Is Your Hand Pain Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel or Something Else?

Is Your Hand Pain Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel or Something Else?

FRIDAY, March 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) — You use your hands nearly every minute of the day, so any time they hurt it’s important to find out why.

Certain conditions can affect people who do the same hand movements for hours every day. Repetitive strain injury can cause pain in muscles, nerves and tendons. Carpal tunnel syndrome swelling compresses a key nerve. The lesser known de Quervain’s tenosynovitis typically affects tendons on the inner sides of the wrist.

An autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis often causes joint pain. Without treatment, it can lead to deformities in your hands. The wrist and finger joints are common targets of osteoarthritis, which occurs over time from normal wear-and-tear.

Treatment might start with an over-the-counter or prescription NSAID to temporarily relieve pain, but their long-term use has been linked to side effects such as liver or kidney damage and elevated heart attack risk.

Stronger medications may be needed to stop a degenerative disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Corticosteroid injections are an occasional option to reduce inflammation. Heat can ease stiffness while a cold pack can relieve soreness. If you have a chronic condition, an occupational therapist can teach you how to limit stress on joints when using your hands. During a flare, he or she might suggest a splint to stabilize your hand.

Sometimes surgery is needed. Dupuytren’s contracture, a thickening under the skin on the palm of the hand, can develop into firm lumps that cause fingers to bend inward. Unless lumps are removed early, it may be impossible to straighten fingers later on. If other options don’t help carpal tunnel and de Quervain’s, surgery might be the answer.

Many conditions worsen without appropriate treatment, so don’t delay in seeing your doctor or a hand specialist.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more on painful hand conditions.

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4 in 10 People Will Suffer Arthritic Hands Over Lifetime

4 in 10 People Will Suffer Arthritic Hands Over Lifetime

If you have stiff, aching fingers and hands, you’re not alone — a new study reports that 40 percent of people will be affected by the pain of arthritis in at least one hand.

The rate seen in the new research is “just slightly below the percentage of osteoarthritis seen in knees and is significantly greater than that seen in hips,” noted Dr. Daniel Polatsch. He’s co-director of the New York Hand & Wrist Center at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Arthritis “affects hand strength and function and causes difficulty doing activities of daily living,” Polatsch said.

The study team was led by Jin Qin, of the Arthritis Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers looked at 1999-2010 data on more than 2,200 people from North Carolina. All people in the study were aged 45 or older.

The information collected included symptoms the participants reported as well as hand X-rays.

Women were at higher risk than men, with nearly half of women (47 percent) developing hand arthritis. Only about a quarter of men had hand arthritis, Qin’s team said. Whites were more prone to the ailment than blacks, with rates of 41 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Excess weight was also a risk factor for hand arthritis. Lifetime risk among obese people was 47 percent, compared to 36 percent for non-obese people, the study found.

Dr. Steven Carsons is chief of rheumatology at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. He said the finding that hand arthritis is more common in women “has been long thought to have a genetic and hormonal basis.”

The obesity link is more intriguing, Carsons said.

“While obesity has always been assumed to be a risk factor for osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints, such as the knee, these data reveal the somewhat surprising association of obesity and lifetime risk of development of hand osteoarthritis,” he said.

Recent studies have suggested that obesity may set up “systemic inflammation” in the body, Carsons said, which may raise the odds of arthritis in a non-weight-bearing joint, such as the hand.

Because arthritis in the hands can be disabling, Polatsch said, “treatment options and access to hand specialists need to improve in order to minimize the impact of this potentially disabling condition in our aging population.”

The study was published May 4 in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

More information

Find out more about arthritis at the Arthritis Foundation.