Treatment and Exercise For Wrist Arthritis

Dear Doctor, My mother is 55 years old and has been diagnosed of wrist arthritis. She has pain and swelling in the wrist joint, which makes cooking and other work difficult for her. I would like to know about treatment options for arthritis of the wrist, exercises and healthy living plan that can help her.
  • Posted By:
  • 'Kelsey' on
  • 10/27/2014
  • 2951
  • 1 Answer

Answered By:

Wrist arthritis is the inflammation of the wrist joint and involves surrounding tissues causing swelling and pain in the area around the wrist. Arthritis can be of different types like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and some other forms. However, the most important part is that the pain and discomfort caused in any type of arthritis can be very disturbing.

Treatment and Exercise For Wrist Arthritis

Symptoms common in wrist arthritis include, pain in and around the wrist, swelling, morning stiffness of the wrist joint, muscle spasms and sometimes even numbness and tingling in the hands. As the condition progresses, grating or clicking sounds may be heard while moving the joint, range of motion may be reduced and sometimes weakness or joint deformity may also be noted.

Diagnosis is based on patient's complaints, physical examination, radiographic investigations like X-rays, bloods tests to detect inflammation, genetic markers or to rule out rheumatoid type of arthritis. Additional advanced tests like arthrocentesis may be ordered in some cases.

What Are The Treatment Options For Wrist Arthritis?

The medical management of wrist arthritis includes

Conventional Treatments

These include non-surgical treatment options using medications and other modalities.

  • Medications like anti-inflammatory medicines and pain-killers are prescribed to relieve the pain and swelling. Sometimes, muscle relaxants and nerve medicines may also be given depending on the symptoms.
  • In case of severe pain, splint may be applied to completely rest the wrist joint for short periods to allow recovery.
  • For wrist pain and swelling, applying ice packs may be advised by your physician.
  • Limiting activities that cause pain; especially during acute pain, taking adequate rest and modifying the activities involving the wrist joint are other suggestions.
  • Physiotherapy and gentle exercises may be advised to improve range of motion, joint stability and prevent further damage to the joint.
  • In some cases of chronic pain, steroid injections in the joints may be advised.

Surgical Treatments For Wrist Arthritis

These include surgical treatment options that require some kind of intervention and are usually recommended only when other treatments have not shown satisfactory improvement. Various options are discussed by the physician and the best one is chosen. Some of these are:

  • Reconstructive surgery that involves removing either of the arthritic bones in the wrist joint and replacing it with another tissue from the body. It provides good range of motion and helps to relieve pain.
  • Joint fusion surgery is performed to fuse or join some bones to provide stability. The range of motion depends on the number of bones fused.
  • Joint replacement surgery is performed to replace the arthritic joint with prosthesis or an artificial device. This can help in maintaining complete range of motion.

Exercises For The Wrist

Once the acute pain has subsided, physical therapy usually begins with exercises to keep the wrist joint healthy. The precise exercises, the number of repetitions and addition of new exercises may vary depending on the patient's condition. Some the exercises usually recommended include:

  • Keep your fingers stretched out, then slowly bring them close and make a fist. Hold the position for few seconds and then open the fingers.
  • Make a fist, gently move the wrists up/down so that it bends at the wrist joint. Then move the wrist sideways.
  • With the fist, move the wrists in circular motion, like clockwise and then in anti-clockwise direction.Stretch your wrist by pressing one hand against the other, with fingers touching each other and trying to bend the wrist backwards to feel the stretch. This can also be done by keeping both hands in prayer position with wrists bent and forearms in a straight line.
  • Hold a stress ball in your hand and gently press it until you feel comfortable. Hold it for a few seconds and release. Repeat it few times.
  • Hold the ball in hand and rest it against a flat surface. Rotate the ball on that surface with the hand such that the wrists are made to control the movement.

Healthy Living With Arthritis

A basic rule for healthy living with arthritis is moderation. It is good to follow a routine that focuses on a healthy diet, adequate sleep and performing prescribed exercises. Being overweight can increase your problems, so aim at maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Carry out work in moderation and within limits. Avoid overdoing activities that can cause pain or discomfort. Take breaks in between your work.
  • Seek help for domestic and cooking activities, plan in advance and use modified ways of working. Find out alternatives or devices that can make your work simpler.
  • Plan a healthy diet that includes fish, eggs, low fat milk, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Keep yourself well hydrated by consuming plenty of water and fluids.
  • Take care of your health and adopt preventive measures to avoid pain. Use warm compresses and wear gloves during winter. Consider wearing a wrist support with medical advice. Continue with physical therapy or prescribed exercises and follow-up regularly for continued improvement.

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