The Arthritic Hand

By Heather Lopez, OTR/CHT

The Arthritic Hand

An arthritic hand is inflamed, stiff, and painful. The joints can be a reddish hue and even feel warm to the touch.  Arthritis can be rheumatoid in nature or osteoarthritic. You use your hands for everyday activities, you shouldn’t have to live in pain. Common symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, stiffness, or numbness. It can be difficult to move your fingers or grip objects. Arthritic hands can be treated with medication to control pain and inflammation.

woman grabbing hand from arthritic hand pain

The arthritic hand can be painful

Rheumatoid Arthritis

A characteristic of a Rheumatoid Arthritic hand is the drifting the digits toward the hand’s small finger side. The fingers are no longer able to maintain proper alignment with the hand. In more severe cases, the extensor tendons that run along the back of the hand and into the digits slip off the large knuckles (MP joints), causing the fingers to drift even further. This positioning of the fingers makes grasping activities, in-hand manipulation, and fine motor tasks virtually impossible.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive autoimmune disease. This means that the body’s own immune system attacks its healthy cells. A panel of blood tests diagnoses rheumatoid arthritis. In the early stages of the arthritic process, pain, inflammation, and stiffness can be alleviated by:

  • warm compresses
  • paraffin treatments
  • gentle hand exercises with little to no resistance
  • splinting

Joint protective techniques are a crucial part of the education process to help preserve the joint surfaces as much as possible. Medications may also help; from over-the-counter NSAIDs to prescribed disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. When the conservative treatments are no longer a benefit, surgery may be necessary to realign the digits and replace the MP joints. JOI has the largest group of board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopaedic specialists in Northeast Florida.


The second type of arthritic hand is the osteoarthritic hand. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that results from everyday usage, or it may be a result of a particular injury. The cartilage or cushion between the joint surfaces deteriorates over time, causing a bone-on-bone joint that is painful, stiff, and full of crepitus. The extra calcification creates nodules on the hand’s interphalangeal joints (IP joints), giving the fingers a “knobby” appearance. The thumb is a common digit that is affected by osteoarthritis. The thumb is characterized by a loss of web space between the thumb and the index finger.

image of Wrist pain

Hand Pain

A simple x-ray can diagnose osteoarthritis. It can be conservatively managed in the early stages of the disease process, similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Again joint protection techniques are a crucial part of joint preservation. Prolonged gripping and pinching activities need to be avoided. Osteoarthritis can become so painful and debilitating that joint replacement or joint fusion is necessary to alleviate the pain and improve function.

The arthritic hand can be very debilitating, and there is not a cure. Becoming aware of early arthritis signs and symptoms can help one preserve their function and independence. Therefore, read this ARTICLE to learn 4 top hand exercises for arthritis.

Natural Cures for Inflammation

woman in kitchen preparing healthy food

Natural cures for inflammation of the Arthritic Hand

You can naturally reduce inflammation in your hand through your diet. The following foods help reduce inflammation:

  • Olive Oil
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna
  • Tomatoes
  • Fruits like blueberries, strawberries, oranges, and cherries
  • Nuts, like walnuts and almonds
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and collards
  • Celery juice or beet juice
  • Herbs and spices such as ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, and turmeric

Treatments for Hand Arthritis in Jacksonville

If you have arthritis in the hands and these hand exercises do not help, it is time to see a Hand Specialist.  The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute Northeast Florida’s top hand specialists and are here to help.  JOI is taking precautions during COVID-19 to keep you safe so that you don’t have to wait to get treatment. Watch this VIDEO why hand pain can’t wait for treatment.

JOI exclusively offers ActivArmor waterproof casts. ActivArmor’s revolutionary 3D scanning technology allows custom-fit medical casts. It is the first and only custom-made 3D waterproof splint available in the United States and equips patients and physicians with faster, unique, healing-specific methods. ActivArmor is more beneficial than a traditional cast during times such as cold and flu season because it allows for those wearing it to properly wash their hands and have good hygiene.

Finally, to schedule an appointment for physical therapy, please call JOI Rehab at 904-858-7045.

Related Articles: Direct Access to Physical Therapy.

The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute Rehabilitation provides comprehensive preventative and post-surgical Hand Therapy and Occupational Therapy services across 12 locations over the Northeast Florida region. If you would like to schedule an appointment with a JOI Orthopedic Hand Specialist, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below. Let JOI get you on the road to recovery.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician.

By: Heather Lopez, OTR/CHT

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