Every day your hands perform hundreds of tasks for you, from eating, grooming and dressing, to typing, writing and opening doors. We often take our amazing hands for granted --until arthritis pain strikes. If you suffer from joint pain or arthritis in your hands, you know how debilitating the stiffness and pain can be. Read on to find out about hand arthritis, and how to relieve the pain. How common is hand arthritis? “Knee and hip arthritis can literally knock you off your feet, but hand arthritis is often overlooked because we don’t walk on our hands,” says Jeffrey Katz, MD, professor of Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital. [caption id="attachment_457" align="alignright" width="300"] Hand arthritis affects our daily activities around the house, in the kitchen, typing at a keyboard or using any tools that demand manual dexterity.[/caption] Yet arthritis in the hands is the most common type of arthritis. And since we use our hands and fingers in most activities, swollen fingers and inflamed joints can make daily life very difficult. Hand arthritis affects our daily activities around the house, in the kitchen, typing at a keyboard or using any tools that demand manual dexterity. Arthritis can cause you to lose strength in your hands, and this weakness can make it hard to do even the simplest everyday tasks. Over time, if the arthritis is not treated, the bones that make up the joint can lose their normal shape, limiting motion and leading to disability. Your amazing hands Your hands and wrists are made up of many different bones, muscles and ligaments that give you a wide range of daily movements, from gripping and pinching, to turning the lid of a jar to open it . Here’s a quick overview of the main structures of your hands and wrist: Bones: Each hand has 19 bones. The palm has 5 bones called metacarpals, and each finger except the thumb has 3 small bones (the thumb has 2). Each bone is connected by a series of ligaments. The wrist is formed where the two bones of the forearm meet the carpus. The wrist has multiple joints where the bones of the arm and hand meet to allow movement. The carpus is formed from eight small bones referred to as the carpal bones. [caption id="attachment_458" align="alignright" width="300"] Each hand has 19 bones, as well as joints, ligaments, cartilage and tendons.[/caption] Joints: Each finger has three joints wherever two or more of these bones meet, the joint at the base of the finger, in the middle of the finger, and closest to the fingertip. Thumbs have two joints. Cartilage: A layer of cartilage covers the surface of the bones where they meet to form joints. Cartilage allows the bones to glide smoothly against each other as they move. Synovial fluid: Synovial fluid is a thick substance that acts as a shock absorber to lubricate joints. Ligaments: The ligaments are tough bands of connective tissue that connect the bones to support them and keep them in place. Tendons: Tendons are bands of connective tissue that attach muscles to bone, enabling the muscles to move the bones. Pulleys: Rings of connective tissue, called pulleys, hold the tendons of the fingers close to the bone. Where does hand arthritis occur? [caption id="attachment_460" align="alignright" width="300"] Hand arthritis occurs in a few specific spots.[/caption] Arthritis in the hands occurs most frequently in certain spots:
- In the joint at the base of the thumb, where the thumb meets the wrist. You may have bumps or bony knobs located near the site of the arthritis.
- In the joint at the end of the finger closest to the nail. Bumps called Heberden's nodes might show up there.
- In the joint in the middle of the finger. This spot gets bumps called Bouchard's nodes.