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Osteoarthritis in the hands

Hand osteoarthritis (OA) is a common condition characterised by the degeneration of cartilage in the joints of the hand. It can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced hand function, significantly impacting a person's quality of life. This evidence-based report provides an overview of the current management strategies for hand OA based on available scientific literature.

Hand osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent musculoskeletal disorder affecting the hand joints, predominantly in the elderly population. It is associated with pain, decreased grip strength, joint deformities, and functional limitations. The management of hand OA aims to alleviate symptoms, improve hand function, and enhance the patient's overall quality of life.

Conservative Interventions:

Education and self-management: Patient education and self-management strategies play a crucial role in hand OA management. Teaching patients about the condition, joint protection techniques, and activity modification can empower them to take an active role in their care.

Exercises and hand therapy: Strengthening and range-of-motion exercises, along with hand therapy interventions, have shown promising results in reducing pain, improving hand function, and enhancing grip strength.

Splinting and assistive devices: Customised splints and assistive devices can help support the affected joints, reduce pain, and improve hand function. They are particularly beneficial during activities that aggravate symptoms.

Pharmacological Treatments: Topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac gel, have demonstrated efficacy in relieving pain and improving hand function in hand OA patients. Oral medications: When topical therapies are insufficient, oral analgesics and NSAIDs can be prescribed. However, their use should be carefully monitored due to potential side effects.

The management of hand osteoarthritis requires a multimodal approach, combining conservative interventions and pharmacological treatments. Conservative interventions, including education, exercises, and splinting, should be considered as first-line treatments. Pharmacological options, such as topical therapies and oral medications, can be utilised when necessary, with close monitoring for potential side effects.


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