Because Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in people over 50 in Australia- we know that effectively managing joint pain is essential to getting on with living a full life.
Osteoarthritis often referred to as a degenerative joint condition, or 'wear and tear' disease. But it is actually most often due to chemical changes in the joint, and involves breakdown of the joint surface or cartilage. (Cartilage is the smooth and slipper surface that covers the end of the bones). It is most common in the hips, knees and small joints of the hands, but can occur in any joint in the body.
Symptoms involve having a sore joint, which may be swollen and sometimes hot. Movement in the sore thumb, wrist or finger joint may decrease over time.
In the hand therapy clinic we most commonly see people with Osteoarthritis at the base of their thumb (first CMCJ OA), or the end joints of their fingers (DIPJ & PIPJ's). Most people who have Osteoarthritis in their hands or wrists are over 50, however people can develop OA following bone injury in a joint space.
We help people manage their symptoms through education about the condition, and giving exercises to maximise movement and strength at and around the arthritic joint. We also custom make and prescribe supportive splints. These splints not only aim to increase your comfort in performing everyday activities, but we recommend the splint which will best align the joints internally. This way we are help you to get the most out of your joints for longer.
We know that when joints are particularly sore they may benefit from an injection of cortisone, and can help guide you through this process. Some joints with Osteoarthritis will benefit significantly from surgery. We work with several surgeons to manage their patients post operatively. These commonly include operations to remove a bone in the base of the thumb, and recreate the joint with a tendon and some very clever Plastic or Orthopaedic Hand Surgery! We also frequently see people following joint replacement at the PIPJ's (PIPJ arthroplasty), and wrist fusion.
Base of thumb OA management is of special interest to our hand therapist, so feel free to give her a call to discuss how she might be able to help you manage your painful thumb!