Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is characterised by loss of cartilage, overgrowth of bone and the formation of bone spurs. This causes the bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling and loss of motion of the joint. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint but most often occurs in the hips, knees, hands or spine. Osteoarthritis of the hand can significantly impair function and affect quality of life, as well as independent living.
Conservative therapy for the management of osteroarthritis includes splinting and rest for when an exacerbation episode occurs. Fish oil and glucosamine have also been shown to give some symptomatic relief as well as slowing down the disease process.
Surgery for Osteroarthritis is often reserved for intractable pain or deteriorating function. Surgery for osteoarthritis can provide several benefits, including the following:
If the constant wearing away of cartilage makes it difficult for you to move, making it difficult to you to get around and stay independent, replacing the damaged joint with a synthetic one can allow you to continue activities that you enjoy.
If osteoarthritis causes severe, constant pain that isn’t relieved by treatments such as medications, exercise or physical therapy, surgically replacing the painful joint or removing loose growths that are causing pain, for example, can relieve pain.
In some cases, osteoarthritis can cause the joint to become maligned so that it no longer functions as it should and looks unusual. But appearance should not be the main reason for having surgery for osteoarthritis; improved appearance should be considered a bonus after osteoarthritis surgery improves movement and relieves pain.
Surgeons can repair or reconstruct almost any area of the hand or wrist by removing tissue from inflamed joints, repositioning tendons, or implanting artificial joints. Pain in the joints could also be eradicated by fusing the affected joint – although the movement is lost in the joint, it maintains its strength, and loses its pain. With surgery, your hand may not regain its full use, you can generally expect a significant improvement in function, pain and appearance. Still, it's important to remember that surgical repair doesn't eliminate the underlying disease.
Hand therapy is very important postoperatively to allow joints to heal and soft tissues to maintain their suppleness and mobility.