Although there are many kinds of arthritis, most wrist pain is caused by the following two types:
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive condition that destroys the smooth articular cartilage covering the ends of bones. The bare bones rub against each other, resulting in pain, stiffness, and weakness. Osteoarthritis can develop due to normal “wear-and-tear” on the wrist or as a result of a traumatic injury to the forearm, wrist, or ligaments.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic inflammatory disease that affects the joint linings and destroys bones, tissues, and joints. Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in smaller joints, like those found in the hand and wrist. It is symmetrical, meaning that it usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body.
Arthritis of the wrist joint manifests with swelling, pain, limited motion, and weakness. These symptoms are usually limited to the wrist joint itself.
In general, early treatment is nonsurgical and designed to help relieve pain and swelling. Several therapies can be used to treat arthritis, including:
- Modifying your activities.
- Immobilizing the wrist in a splint.
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
- Following a prescribed exercise program.
- Getting a steroid injection into the joint.
When nonsurgical methods are no longer effective, or if hand function decreases, surgery is recommended. The goal of wrist arthritis surgery is to relieve pain.
Surgical options include:
- Removing the arthritic bones (proximal row carpectomy)
- Joint fusion (making the joint solid and preventing any movement at the wrist)
- Joint replacement