Wrist Arthritis makes daily activities more and more difficult for you due to pain, swelling, reduced range of motion, weakness, and stiffness. If these symptoms go without being treated, some of them can cause serious joint damage and become permanent. Our wrists are made of healthy bone and smooth cartilage around the joint surfaces. Your wrist is made up of your two forearm bones (radius and ulna) and eight small carpal bones lined up in two rows (four bones per row). If you have arthritis, your cartilage is being damaged, and as this progresses the bones begin to rub against each other. This joint damage is unrepairable.
Three Types of Wrist Arthritis
- Osteoarthritis. While this type of arthritis is common for middle-aged individuals, it can also occur in younger adults due to osteoarthritis caused by normal wear and tear or a family history of arthritis. With a lack of blood supply, the wrist has little ability to heal or regenerate once it becomes injured. People with osteoarthritis typically complain of pain and stiffness due to the lack of cartilage between bones. If you have Kienbock’s Disease you have an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis due to the lack of blood supply to the carpal bones which causes the bone to die and slowly collapse.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). This disease typically begins in smaller joints (like the wrist or hand) before moving to larger joints. RA is also a symmetrical disease meaning it affects the same joint on both sides of the body. This disease is an autoimmune disease which means your body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissue, cartilage, and ligaments. This autoimmune disease can also cause your bone to soften. If you have RA, you likely have pain between your forearm bones (ulna and radius). Typical symptoms of RA in the wrist are loss of function in your hand and deformity due to the rupture of the tendons that straighten the fingers.
- Posttraumatic Arthritis. If you previously experienced an injury to your wrist or hand, you may also have posttraumatic arthritis due to a direct injury to the cartilage or the delayed wearing of cartilage caused by the way the bones move together. You can begin seeing signs of posttraumatic arthritis many years after your initial injury. If you didn’t follow proper treatment plans or didn’t have one then you are at an increased risk of having posttraumatic arthritis.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Wrist Arthritis
Despite there not being a cure, there are treatments available to relieve the symptoms:
- Activity Modification. You should stop doing the activities that are causing your pain to worsen. However, there may be modifications that minimize the pain and swelling.
- Bracing. A brace will assist your wrist and hand by avoiding stress to the joint.
- Anti-inflammatory Medication. By taking an anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen, can reduce your pain, inflammation, and swelling. There are topical medications which means you apply them directly to the skin.
- Exercise. Exercises improve your range of motion and increase the function of your wrist.
- Steroid Injection. If some of the other options aren’t relieving your pain, ask about a more powerful anti-inflammatory injection into the arthritic joint. This option provides temporary relief.
- Other Therapy. You might also find benefits from soaking your wrist in warm and cold water, which will reduce swelling.
- Anti-Rheumatic Medication. If you have Rheumatoid Arthritis and the options above aren’t working for you, try a medication called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD). This drug stops your immune system from breaking down and attacking your healthy joints.