Hand Osteoarthritis: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Surgery, Home Remedies, Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 19 April 2021

Table of Contents :

  1. Hand Osteoarthritis
  2. Causes and Risk Factors
  3. Flare-ups
  4. Symptoms
  5. Diagnosis
  6. Treatment
  7. Surgery
  8. Home Remedies
  9. Prevention

Hand Osteoarthritis

Hand osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition that results in joint pain and stiffness. It usually occurs in three locations:

  • The base of your thumb, where it meets your wrist
  • One of the joints closest to your fingertips
  • The middle joint of a finger

Although there is no cure, there are many things you can do to protect your joints and feel better.

Osteoarthritis worsens with time if not treated. It’s important to obtain a diagnosis and treatment plan as early as possible.

Causes and Risk Factors

Osteoarthritis (OA) was once thought to develop as a result of wear and tear joint. Researchers have discovered that there is more to the case.

A smooth layer of material called cartilage covers the ends of the bones. It protects the joints by cushioning them and allowing them to move freely. However, cartilage will deteriorate over time. OA symptoms are caused by the bones rubbing against each other. Other tissues in the joint can produce inflammatory cells as a result of the wear and tear, thus damaging the joint.

Some factors will increase the probability of developing hand OA:

  • Age. The older you are, the higher your chances are.
  • Sex. Women are twice as likely to develop it as men.
  • Ethnicity. African Americans have lower rates.
  • Weight. Individuals who are slimmer have a lower risk of contracting it than those who are obese.
  • Injuries. This involves bones that have been fractured or dislocated.
  • Changes in your genes. Your parents may have inherited a genetic tendency to OA.
  • Joint problems. This involves infections, loose ligaments, overuse, and misaligned joints.


Your symptoms can be worse in the morning. Additional causes can include the following:

  • Stress
  • Cold weather
  • Changes in barometric pressure
  • Repetitive motion of the hands
  • Overdoing an activity
  • Infection


Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms. They will deteriorate over time. The pain can become more frequent and intense, and the stiffness may prevent you from completely bending your finger joints.

Hand osteoarthritis may result in additional complications, such as:

  • Bumps and lumps. Near your finger joints, two types of bony bumps are common. Bouchard’s nodes appear on the middle joint of a finger, while Heberden’s nodes appear near the tip. You’re even more likely to develop cysts at your fingertip joints, which are fluid-filled bumps.
  • Clicking and cracking (crepitus). The sound you hear is the cartilage in your joints rubbing against each other as it breaks down.
  • Swelling and redness. This is a symptom of joint inflammation.
  • Weakness. Turning door knobs and lifting large pots can be difficult due to pain and joint injury.
  • Other physical changes. The swelling and breakdown of cartilage and bone will change the shape and size of your joints over time.


Your doctor will examine your hands and ask about your symptoms as well as your family’s medical history. You’ll most likely have X-rays as well. They’ll also look for other signs of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis.


To relieve pain and make it easier to use your hand, your doctor can prescribe one or more of these treatments:

  • Painkiller pills. Paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen can help relieve pain.
  • Immobilizing devices.To relieve pain, use a splint, brace, or sleeve to keep your hand in a safe position.
  • Hand therapy. A hand therapist may demonstrate exercises and methods for performing daily tasks. For instance, rather than carrying groceries with your fingers, you could drape them over your forearm.
  • Cortisone shots. A joint injection can provide temporary relief for weeks or months. Your doctor will only recommend these a limited number of times due to the risk of infection and damaged ligaments.


If none of the other treatments work or if your symptoms make it difficult to use your hand, you and your doctor can discuss surgery. One alternative is joint fusion, in which the bones are fused together by the surgeon. You will experience less discomfort, but you will lose the ability to move the joint as freely as you once did. Alternatively, you can undergo surgery to remove and repair the joint.

Home Remedies

These at-home remedies can be beneficial:

  • Exercises. Your doctor or physical therapist will demonstrate how to enhance your stamina and range of motion while still relieving pain.
  • Assistive devices. It could be easier to use special pens, kitchen utensils, and other items with large grips.
  • Ice or heat. Ice can help to alleviate swelling and pain. Stiff joints may be loosened with heat, such as a warm washcloth or a paraffin bath.
  • Skin treatments. When applied to sore joints, medicated creams may provide relief. Additionally, gels containing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are beneficial.
  • Supplements. For osteoarthritis, many people take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. Researchers are still investigating whether they are helpful. Check with your doctor and see if they’re safe to try.


There is no single method for preventing osteoarthritis. You may be able to reduce your chances by making some lifestyle changes:

  • Avoid doing activities that require you to repeat the same motions over and over. If you can, avoid the ones that would put too much strain on your joints.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Strengthen the joints and muscles by exercising.


Referenced on 14/4/2021

  1. American Society for Surgery of the Hand: “Osteoarthritis."
  2. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons’ OrthoInfo: “Arthritis of the Hand."
  3. Arthritis Foundation: “Osteoarthritis of the Hands," “Topical NSAIDs Offer Rub-on Relief," “Arthritis Pain Relief and Shoe Inserts: What Triggers an Arthritis Flare?”
  4. Cleveland Clinic: “Arthritis of the Wrist and Hand."
  5. UpToDate: “Management of Hand Osteoarthritis."
  6. American Academy of Family Physicians: “Osteoarthritis.”
  7. https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/hand-osteoarthritis-degenerative-arthritis-of-the-hand

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