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Finger Arthritis

Finger Tip / DIP / PIP Arthritis

What is Finger Arthritis?

Your fingers are each made up of three bones called phalanges.

The bone closest to your palm is called the proximal phalange, the middle bone is called the intermediate phalange, and the tip of your finger is called the distal phalange.

The joint between your distal and intermediate phalange (the tip of your finger) is called the distal interphalangeal joint (DIP). The joint between your proximal and intermediate phalange (the middle of your finger) is called the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP).

It is at these joints where arthritis of the fingers can occur.

Cartilage, a smooth, rubbery coating that cushions the ends of your bones where they meet to form joints, allows your fingers to move smoothly and painlessly.

Finger arthritis occurs when the cartilage surrounding the bones that form the DIP and/or PIP joint wears away, and eventually exposes the bone.

As the disease progresses, painful bone spurs called osteophytes can form in the place of cartilage.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Finger Arthritis?

There is no one cause of finger arthritis, but several factors increase your risk of developing it, including:

  • Increasing age, especially over 65
  • Gender – women are more likely to get arthritis
  • Being overweight
  • Family history of arthritis
  • Previous injuries in your fingers
  • Genetic defects in the cartilage or fingers
  • Repetitive stress to the hands and fingers, whether occupational or recreational

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis is also common in the fingers.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Finger Arthritis?

The most common symptom of finger arthritis is pain at the tip of the finger or tips of multiple fingers. Most often, the pain develops slowly over time, but it can appear suddenly.

Other signs and symptoms of finger arthritis include:

  • Tenderness in the tips of the fingers
  • Swelling, redness, or warmth at the tips of the fingers
  • Stiffness and difficulty moving the fingers, especially first thing in the morning or after periods of inactivity
  • A crunching, clicking, or snapping sound (known as crepitus) when making a fist or grasping something
  • Weakness in the fingers and difficulty gripping
  • Decreased range of motion and pain while doing routine activities such as opening jars, turning a key or doorknob, writing, or gripping the steering wheel of a car
  • Bumps and lumps at the tips of your fingers (at the DIP joint), called Heberden’s nodes, or at the middle of your fingers (at the PIP joint) called Bouchard’s nodes
  • Cysts at the tips of the fingers that could cause dents or ridging in the nail of the affected finger(s)

Concerned about symptoms of finger arthritis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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How is Finger Arthritis Treated?

Treatments for finger arthritis typically include medications, physiotherapy, and surgery, though surgery should be considered only as a last resort, and many drugs carry serious side effects.

Treatments for finger arthritis include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Medications, including:
    • Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
    • Topical medications such as creams, sprays, gels or patches
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), though these drugs can have serious side effects
    • Corticosteroid injections, though these cannot be continued for a long period of time
  • Surgery – if surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation

Physiotherapy for Finger Arthritis

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that has been proven to reduce arthritis pain.

The goal of physiotherapy for finger arthritis is to prevent the progression of the disease, reduce pain, regain strength, and increase joint mobility, function, and quality of life.

Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for finger arthritis can include:

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Can Finger Arthritis Go Away On Its Own?

Unfortunately, no. There is no cure for finger arthritis, but with proper treatment, the disease can be managed effectively and progression stopped or delayed.

If you have finger arthritis, there are things you can do to make daily living easier, including:

  • Minimizing activities that put stress on your hands, such as gardening or knitting
  • Applying heat and cold therapy
  • Using assistive devices such as jar openers, key turners, and large zipper pulls; using larger pens; using kitchen utensils and tools with larger handles
  • Replacing door knobs with levers that you push down on, not turn
  • Using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse
  • Wearing a splint or compression glove for support while sleeping or while doing repetitive motions during the day

Can You Prevent Finger Arthritis?

There are many things you can do to prevent or reduce the chance of developing finger arthritis, including:

  • Exercising regularly, including stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi (at least 30 minutes every day)
  • Eating a non-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Finger Arthritis Today

Concerned about symptoms of finger arthritis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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