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Finger Arthritis and its treatment with physical therapy

Do you often feel strange pain in your fingers especially in the joints at the end of the day? You might think that it is due to strain from work (like typing on computer for a long time), but in 1 out of 10 cases it might be Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) or more commonly known as Finger Arthritis. The joints in your hands and fingers may be the most delicate in your body but they work together like a machine – well-oiled- and help you do your daily activities with ease.

What is finger arthritis?

Finger arthritis in one of the many types of arthritis that develop in human body. Pain in hands can be due to both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While osteoarthritis is due to degenerative changes in cartilage, RA is the result of an autoimmune condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) develops when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue that protects the joints. It is a case where body’s immune system mistakes the healthy tissues for foreign invaders. The resulting symptoms can be similar to those of osteoarthritis, including pain, inflammation, and redness.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) can occur with no risk factors. However, women are more likely to experience the condition than men. Those with a family history of RA, who are obese, or who smoke are also at a greater risk of developing it.

While a person can experience RA at any age, the most common age of onset is between 40 and 60.

Image of different symptoms of finger arthritis such as joint pain, stiffness, loss of motion, lumps around the knuckles and swelling

Symptoms of finger arthritis (Rheumatoid Arthritis)

Depending upon the type of arthritis symptoms may differ slightly. These differences can help a doctor determine the correct underlying cause of arthritis symptoms in the hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can affect any joint in your body, including those in your hands and fingers. As a symptom you may feel:

  • Hand pain, finger pain, swelling, and stiffness
  • Hand joints and finger joints that are warm and tender to the touch
  • The same joints affected on both sides of your body (both wrists, for instance)
  • Deformed finger joints
  • Carpal tunnel symptoms such as numbness and tingling of the hands
  • Fatigue in hands and fingers
  • Pain and stiffness that last for more than an hour when you wake up

Underlying Causes

The exact cause of RA is still not known to the experts. It may be triggered by an infection to a genetically predisposed patient and starts the inflammation. Meaning that genetics plays a vital role in this. Inflammation causes the synovium (see the image below) to thicken. Eventually, if left untreated, it can invade and destroy cartilage — the connective tissue that cushions the ends of the bones.

Image of hand depicting synovium and tendons
Palm view of hand showing tendons, bones, muscles, arteries, nerves. SOURCE: Original art. Used in 90778.

Hormones may also play a role. For instance, RA is more common in women than in men. It tends to improve with pregnancy. But it may get worse after the baby is born.

An severe injury or trauma to the hands may also cause finger arthritis.

Treatment with physical therapy

After a full diagnosis Call Doctor specialist will make a plan based on your needs, including:

  • Medications
  • Rest and exercise
  • Splints and special arthritis aids that take pressure off of painful joints
  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding foods that trigger inflammation
  • Eating foods that curb inflammation, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon or in flax oil
  • Regular medical checkups
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery if joints are severely damaged

In this article we are going to focus on methods that are employed by occupational therapist/physiotherapist to ease pain in finger arthritis.

Hand exercises

Exercises can help to keep the supportive ligaments and tendons in the hands flexible and may also help reduce pain in the hands. Call Doctor’s registered physiotherapist will visit the place of your preference and help you with these simple but effective exercises.

To help alleviate arthritic pain in the hands, following physical therapy can be employed:

  • Making a loose fist and opening the fingers to fully straighten them, repeating this several times on each hand.
  • Bending a finger slowly and carefully, then slowly straightening it out again, and repeating with all fingers.
  • Placing the hand on a flat surface with fingers extended and slowly lifting each finger off the surface. Hold the finger at the highest point it can reach for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat with each finger.
various hand exercises that help in easing pain in finger arthritis

It is best to do these exercises using gentle motions. Call Doctor’s Physical therapists who specialize in hands may be able to expedite your recovery with guided sessions.

Resting the hands from activities that cause pain and overuse can also help to reduce pain.

Hot and cold therapy

Call Doctor’s physiotherapist may suggest applying ice to swollen joints for 10 minutes at a time as it can help reduce swelling. The ice should always have a protective covering, such as a cloth, to prevent skin damage.

Heat therapy can sometimes help to ease stiff joints. Placing the hands in a tub of warm water can help.

Paraffin wax treatments have also been proven to be soothing and help ease stiffness and pain. Wax treatments should only be done under the supervision of a Call Doctor’s registered physical therapist.

Use of splints to treat finger arthritis

Splinting can involve wearing a protective brace on the hand, which may resemble a finger-less glove. There are also “sleeve” brace options that will fit a single finger or multiple fingers, depending on the source of arthritis pain.

By holding the joint still, these braces ideally reduce the incidence of pain.

various type of splints used in the treatment of finger arthritis

Call Doctor’s physiotherapy services at home, hotels & offices

Call Doctor has been providing premium mobile healthcare services wherever you are. We are only a call away. Call 800 400 200 to book an appointment with our team of registered doctors, physiotherapists and nurses. Our team will reach you within 30 minutes and work with you to reduce the pain and make you feel better as soon as possible.

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