Rheumatoid Arthritis Center | Arthritis of the Thumb, Hand & Wrist

The hand is a remarkable thing. Its design is complex and its dexterity is high. The result is that we can use our hands to carry out an enormous range of tasks. From holding a pen, to brushing our teeth, to moving a steering wheel, to typing at a computer, to making food, to holding our phones...the list of ways we use our hands is seemingly neverending. The result is that when part of the hand - be it the hand itself, the wrist, or the fingers - is damaged or suffers from inflammation, our normal mobility and functionality is severely limited.

That’s where we can help. Established in 2004, Pittsburgh Foot and Hand Center is a local resource and care center for those affected by arthritis in the hand, wrist, or thumb. Since 1987, Dr. Bowman has provided the latest in both nonsurgical and surgical orthopaedic treatment to those affected by joint disorders. From our cutting-edge electronic medical records to our use of the latest in imaging technology, our staff process and training puts the focus on providing consistent care to you that is 100% based on your symptoms and needs.

If you are struggling with joint pain, and this sounds like the care that you need, you're invited to contact us online or at (724) 933-3300. We look forward to working with you and helping you find relief!

FAQs on Arthritis of the Thumb, Hand, and Wrist:

What is Arthritis?

"Arthritis" is a singular term used to refer to more than 100 different types of joint pain and joint disease, each with different causes and approaches to treatment. No matter the type of arthritis, however, the disease is marked by inflammation in at least one joint, although multiple joints can be affected. The result of arthritis is pain and stiffness, which often worsens with age.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, people of all ages, sexes, and races can and do have arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in America. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis.

What are Common Symptoms of Arthritis of the Thumb, Hand, and Wrist? 
In general, common arthritis symptoms that can present in the thumb, hand, and wrist alike include: swelling, aching, pain, discomfort, tenderness, and/or stiffness, as well as a decreased range of motion in the afflicted joint. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may also come and go. In more severe cases, the disease can lead to chronic pain and make it difficult to move or engage in daily activities. 

Additional symptoms specific to arthritis of the thumb, hand or wrist include the following:

  • In The Thumb - Patients may develop an enlarged, bony-looking joint at the base of the thumb, as well as experience a loss of strength in the thumb joint.
  • In The Hand - Patients may develop bony bumps where their hands meet their fingers. They may also experience a loss of grip strength, as well as hear clicking and cracking when moving their hand (due to their joint structures rubbing together).
  • In the Wrist - Patients may experience clicking, cracking, or grinding sounds when moving the wrist.

What Else Do I Need to Know about Arthritis of the Thumb?

  • Thumb arthritis is common with aging. It occurs when a protective substance called cartilage begins to wear down, allowing the multiple bones of the thumb joint to painfully rub together. 
  • This condition is usually treated through a combination of medication, splints, and lifestyle adjustments. However, surgery may be ordered if symptoms do not subside with nonsurgical care. 
  • People should see a doctor and receive an examination if they experience persistent swelling, stiffness or pain at the base of their thumb. During the exam, their doctor will ask questions about their symptoms; check for joint-based swelling or lumps; and test the range of motion of the thumb. Imaging testing may also be used to confirm a diagnosis.

What Else Do I Need to Know about Arthritis of the Hand?

  • Arthritis of the hand, as with the thumb, is often due to long-term wear and tear. Because of this, a history of hand injuries may increase one's risk of developing arthritis later on.
  • This condition is usually treated with a mixture of lifestyle adjustments (i.e. pain medication, hot and cold compresses, splints, arthritis-friendly hand tools, and even dietary changes), as well as prescribed exercises to maintain the flexibility of the hands. If these treatments do not provide relief, surgery is the next step in maintaining the hand’s functionality.
  • People should see a doctor and receive an examination if they experience chronic hand tenderness, swelling or redness (with no obvious cause), and/or a limited range of motion in the hand. To confirm a diagnosis of arthritis of the hand, patients must visit with their doctor and undergo a physical examination. During the visit, the doctor will check the joints of the hand and discuss a patient's symptoms. They will also likely order an x-ray to confirm a diagnosis, as well as to check for bone spurs in the hand joints.

What Else Do I Need to Know about Arthritis of the Wrist?

  • Wrist arthritis is commonly associated with the aging process, as the joint can suffer from the effects of wear and tear over time. This health issue is not exclusive to the elderly, however, and can develop at any age.
  • This condition can be treated nonsurgically and surgically. Initially, doctors will suggest nonsurgical treatments (i.e. medication; lifestyle modifications to relieve pressure on the wrist; splints and braces; and heat applications). However, when these approaches do not provide relief, surgery will be the next step in addressing persistent symptoms.
  • People should see their doctor if they experience swelling, redness, a reduced range of motion, or wrist pain. During the appointment, the doctor will conduct a physical examination and a range of motion test. Imaging testing may be used to confirm a diagnosis, as well as rule out health issues with similar symptoms (i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome).

What Can I Expect at Pittsburgh Foot & Hand Center?

Pittsburgh Foot and Hand Center will initially provide an exam and prescribe the lifestyle changes most likely to provide relief from the pain in your afflicted hand, wrist, or thumb. Where necessary, we can also help prepare patients for any recommended surgeries.

In addition to Dr. Bowman’s expertise, our practice’s partnerships provide patients with the access they may need to additional medical professionals, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, and orthotists. Dr. Bowman - and, when needed, these partners - will constantly strive to provide a consistent and high level of nonoperative and postoperative care.

Because every patient is different, specific questions about any diagnosis or surgery should always be discussed in-depth with your medical and/or surgical teams. That’s why we invite you to bring all of your questions to us during your visits, as well as by phone afterward if needed. We will gladly provide the information you need to make the right decision for your health needs.