Hand, Thumb, and Wrist Arthritis

Hand, Wrist & Thumb Arthritis Overview

Arthritis is the inflammation of joint bone, cartilage and soft tissue. Two types of arthritis affect the hand, thumb and wrist:

  1. Osteoarthritis. “Wear and tear” arthritis.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis. Immune system arthritis.

Early arthritis treatment is always best. A nonsurgical treatment plan reduces symptoms and prevents the condition from becoming worse. Patients who experience arthritis of the hand, thumb or wrist symptoms are encouraged to make an appointment with a Carolina Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates’ (CONA) hand specialist as soon as possible.

Symptoms & Causes

Arthritis of the hand, thumb and wrist symptoms include:

  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty moving the joint
  • Difficulty gripping, grabbing and holding onto objects
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

Wear and tear associated with aging is the most common osteoarthritis cause. Early-onset osteoarthritis after an accident or injury is another cause. Rheumatoid arthritis causes are not yet known.

Common Treatments:

Nonsurgical treatment options treat the majority arthritis of the hand, thumb and wrist cases. After a thorough evaluation, a CONA hand specialist may recommend:

  • Activity modification
  • A removable brace
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest, ice, compression, elevation
  • Rheumatoid arthritis medications

Surgery may be a recommended treatment option when severe arthritis does not respond to nonsurgical treatment options. Board-Certified and Fellowship-Trained CONA hand specialists perform all minimally invasive and open procedures. Arthritic bone, cartilage and tissue are treated so the joint can move freely and easily without pain.


A CONA hand specialist:

  • Obtains a medical history, which includes a list of all symptoms, medical conditions and injuries
  • Performs a series of physical examinations
  • Orders and analyzes medical imaging studies, including x-rays and possibly an MRI, CT scan and bloodwork

Arthritis type and severity are accurately diagnosed

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