The American Regenerative Medicine Society –
Orlando, Florida – Finger arthritis is one of the most common forms of osteoarthritis, and the prevalence is expected to increase as the population ages.1 Finger arthritis causes pain, loss of function, decreased ability to grip objects with the hand, and it reduces the overall quality of life.1 Healthcare professionals can diagnose finger osteoarthritis through a detailed history and physical examination along with radiological studies, such as hand x-rays.
Finger osteoarthritis may be caused by a single major injury or repetitive use, i.e., small injuries that accumulate over time.2 For example, NBA player Kobe Bryant has severe osteoarthritis in his right index finger. He likely developed the condition from a combination of major injury and continued, repetitive use while playing basketball.
The current goal of finger osteoarthritis treatment is to alleviate symptoms such as pain. Thus, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly prescribed treatment. NSAIDs may be taken orally or applied topically. Likewise, topical capsaicin has also been used to treat finger osteoarthritis. While splints, the application of heat or ice, and even assistive devices have been tried, they result in little to no improvement.1Physical therapy exercises may decrease pain and increase strength and range of motion. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, there are no disease-modifying drugs available for finger osteoarthritis.1 Occasionally, steroid injections may be used to treat finger osteoarthritis, but their benefits are limited.1 If nonsurgical treatments fail to provide adequate relief, surgery may be attempted.
An interesting new treatment for osteoarthritis of the finger is platelet rich plasma. Platelet rich plasma therapy is a way of administering concentrated healing factors into the arthritic joint to facilitate healing, reduce pain, and improve outcomes. Platelet rich plasma is not a drug in the normal sense. Instead, physicians retrieve a sample of blood from the patient and, using a centrifuge, isolate the layer that contains platelets and growth factors. The sample is then injected back into the patient’s own finger joint.
Initial results with platelet rich plasma have been promising.3 Patients with arthritis of the thumb had less pain and increased strength and function after PRP.4
Finger arthritis is a potentially debilitating disorder of the joints. It can result from injury, repetitive use, or both. Conservative treatments such as splints, heat therapy, or steroid injections are only marginally helpful. Surgery may be needed for severe and intractable finger arthritis, therefore patients with finger arthritis may want to consider platelet rich plasma therapy as a possible treatment option.
Authored by © The American Regenerative Medicine Society
- Kloppenburg M. Hand osteoarthritis-nonpharmacological and pharmacological treatments. Nat Rev Rheumatol. Apr 2014;10(4):242-251. doi:10.1038/nrrheum.2013.214
- Verrouil E, Mazieres B. Etiologic factors in finger osteoarthritis. Rev Rhum Engl Ed. Jun 1995;62(6 Suppl 1):9s-13s.
- Steiner MM, Calandruccio JH. Biologic Approaches to Problems of the Hand and Wrist. Orthop Clin North Am. Jul 2017;48(3):343-349. doi:10.1016/j.ocl.2017.03.010
- Loibl M, Lang S, Dendl LM, et al. Leukocyte-Reduced Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment of Basal Thumb Arthritis: A Pilot Study. Biomed Res Int. 2016;2016:9262909. doi:10.1155/2016/9262909