Should You Get Surgery for Arthritis?

Should You Get Surgery for Arthritis?

That ache in your finger joints could be arthritis. Fortunately, there are both non-surgical and surgical treatments for the condition. 

Common among older people, arthritis affects every joint in the body, including those in the hand and fingers. When arthritis develops in the hands, it can be particularly debilitating, hindering even simple tasks like opening a jar or writing your name.

Arthritis is caused by a breakdown in our cartilage. To help our joints move, a band of cartilage covers the joint’s bones. Over time or due to an injury, the cartilage wears away, forcing the bones to rub against each other. This friction causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and weakness in the joint. The joint may also become deformed and emit a crackling sound when flexed. 

Typically, non-surgical treatments are recommended first to reduce pain and restore full motion to the joint. If those options fail, your doctor may recommend surgery. Here’s what to expect from your treatment plan for hand arthritis.

Treating Hand Arthritis

Arthritis in your hand typically strikes the trapeziometacarpal or basilar joint at the base of the thumb, the middle joint of the finger, or the joint near the fingertip. If you have arthritis in your hand, you may see bumps along those joints. Each bump has its own name: Bouchard’s bumps appear on the middle joint, while Heberden’s nodes emerge on the joint close to your fingertip.

Diagnosing hand arthritis entails reviewing your health history and symptoms as well as a physical examination of your hand to assess any changes in shape and how your hands move. Your doctor will likely request an X-ray to view the joint to see if there are any abnormalities. An X-ray can rule out other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Initial conservative treatment methods for hand arthritis include rest and physical therapy to help you regain full range of motion of the joints. As part of a physical therapy program, a therapist can also show you new ways to complete everyday tasks so you don’t experience pain. Wearing a splint or a tight sleeve that supports the hand in a stable position can minimize discomfort, as well. A cortisone shot in the joint reduces pain, but the effect is only temporary.

At-home remedies to alleviate discomfort range from oral pain medications to medicated creams you rub on the joint. You can apply ice to reduce swelling and heat to loosen joints.

If those conservative methods don’t improve your health, your doctor may suggest surgery. For hand arthritis, a joint fusion procedure during which the bones of the joint are fused together has proven successful in lessening pain. However, your joint will have limited movement afterward. 

Your surgeon may also reconstruct the joint by smoothing away the rough surface of the joint and replacing it with bits of your own tissue or an implant. For severe cases of hand arthritis, joint replacement surgery may be an option. In that procedure, the small joints are removed and replaced with an artificial joint.

The type of surgery your doctor recommends depends on the severity of the arthritis and your activity level. For example, a joint fusion works best for younger, active individuals as opposed to a joint replacement. Joint replacements tend to break down sooner if a person is active.

Visit a Hand Specialist

If you suffer from hand arthritis, the specialists at Florida Hand Center can diagnose your condition and prescribe a treatment plan based on your individual circumstances. After our thorough assessment, we’ll recommend either physical therapy or a surgical option that’s a good fit for you. Whatever option you choose, our staff will make sure you enjoy a life without the pain of arthritis. Contact us for an appointment today.