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Osteoarthritis and Hand Pain

Since the day you were born, you’ve relied on your hands to crawl, communicate, feed yourself, and accomplish tasks both big and small. It’s easy to take that gift for granted until signs of arthritis set in. Just like the visible signs of aging on the outside of your hands, there are invisible signs on the inside that you're getting older, too.  

Although there are more than 100 types of arthritis, the most common type to attack the joints in your hands is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is often referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis because it’s the result of years of constant use. 

All those years of gripping, bending, and flexing can take a toll on the once-protective cartilage designed to keep your bones from rubbing against one another. Once that’s worn down or gone, you have osteoarthritis and the accompanying pain and stiffness that come with it. 

Osteoarthritis isn’t curable, but it’s definitely treatable. If hand pain and stiffness interfere with your ability to do the things you love and need to do, Dr. David Dickerson at Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine should be your first call. 

He and our team of experienced medical professionals help patients in and around Wall Township, Toms River, and Shrewsbury, New Jersey, manage their osteoarthritis symptoms so they can get the most out of life and stay relatively pain free.

Why you have osteoarthritis in your hands

Osteoarthritis is almost inevitable to some degree as you age. Although some escape it, about 50% of women and 25% of men experience the pain and stiffness of hand osteoarthritis by the time they’re 85. 

If you’ve had fractured bones in your hands or your joints are misaligned, loose, or prone to infection, you’re at a higher risk for osteoarthritis. Being overweight and working in a job or hobby that requires repetitive hand movements also increase your chances.

Which hand joints are most affected?

While osteoarthritis can affect just about any joint in your body, some are more susceptible. In your hands, there are three particularly vulnerable places that tend to attract osteoarthritis:

If you’re feeling pain and stiffness in these joints, it’s likely osteoarthritis. 

Signs of hand osteoarthritis

In addition to pain and stiffness, there are several other telltale signs of osteoarthritis in your hands, including:

These symptoms are certainly indicators of hand osteoarthritis, but to be sure we take an X-ray. An X-ray can reveal reduced space in your joints (where you’ve lost cartilage) and the presence of bone spurs that often grow where two bones rub together.

Relieving the pain of hand osteoarthritis

Even though Dr. Dickerson is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, we don’t consider surgery until all other options are exhausted. We believe that the least invasive treatment that works is the best. We may recommend:

Prescription medications

We often start by suggesting over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and pain-relieving creams and ointments. These are often the only things needed to ease the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis and allow you to get back to your life without a hitch.

Noninvasive therapies

If you need extra help to relieve your hand pain, we may recommend a special brace to reduce stress on your joints, exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your joints, or hot and cold therapies to manage inflammation. 


When hand osteoarthritis has progressed past the point where these modalities are effective, we may recommend surgery to remove damaged cartilage, fuse together bones to stop painful friction, or add implants.

To find out which stage of osteoarthritis you have and what you can do to regain the full use of your hands, contact any of our New Jersey locations for a consultation today. 

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