Hand and Wrist Arthritis

What is hand and wrist arthritis?

Arthritis literally means “inflamed joint”, and generally refers to any damage to the joints of the body. There are 36 joints in the hand and wrist, and several sites that commonly affected by arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type, and is a degenerative breakdown of the joints over time. The CMC joint at the base of the thumb is commonly affected. Less common forms of arthritis include damage to the joint due to injuries (post-traumatic arthritis), and inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid, gout, psoriatic).


Whether damaged by degeneration, inflammation, injury, or infection, the smooth cartilage that lines the joints has very limited ability to heal. This causes pain, swelling, and stiffness of the affected joint.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

Is there a test for arthritis?

Your symptoms and medical history as well as an examination of your hand and wrist can help to diagnose arthritis. Often, X-rays of the hand and wrist will show signs of arthritis. If inflammatory arthritis or infection is suspected, additional tests may be needed to determine the case of the arthritis.


Treatment for arthritis depends largely on the type of arthritis.

The most common form is osteoarthritis, and can usually be managed with activity modifications, anti-inflammatory medications, splinting, and steroid injections. Depending on the location of the arthritis, surgical fusion or reconstruction of the joint may significantly improve symptoms in severe or long-standing cases.

Rheumatoid arthritis is much less common, but benefits from medical management under the care of a Rheumatologist. Occasionally surgical reconstructions or fusions are needed for severe cases, or those that are not responding to medical management.


Our Board-Certified Orthopaedic Hand and Wrist Surgeons are here to help! They can often diagnose the problem in one visit, and get you started with a treatment plan. We offer a wide variety of both nonoperative and operative treatment options.

Call today for a clinic or telehealth appointment! 854-423-4263          Book Now

This content is not a substitute for expert medical advice or diagnosis and is for educational purposes only.