What is Wrist Arthritis?

Arthritis refers to the inflammation of joints with age and/or traumatic injury. Because wrist arthritis can limit a patient’s ability to perform day-to-day activities, the condition should be taken seriously. The three most common causes of wrist arthritis are:
  1. “Wear and tear” of cartilage associated with aging.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis. An immune system disorder where the body destroys its own cartilage.
  3. Post-traumatic arthritis. Damage and deterioration of the cartilage following a joint injury.
Regardless of the type of arthritis, symptoms remain consistent. They include:
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Swelling
Unfortunately, arthritis is a chronic condition—it can not be cured. Treatment is geared toward decreasing symptoms and slowing down the progression of the disease.

How is Wrist Arthritis Treated?

Conservative, nonsurgical treatment options are effective when arthritis is detected early. In many cases, a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan includes:
  1. Activity modification. Slowing down or stopping activities that involve painful movements.
  2. A removable brace or splint.
  3. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Medications that decrease inflammation and pain.
  4. Physical therapy. Stretching and strengthening exercises.
In some cases, corticosteroids can be administered via injection to quickly decrease inflammation and pain. Surgical treatment may be recommended for cases of severe wrist arthritis. The two most common procedures are:
  1. A proximal row carpectomy. Three carpal (wrist) bones on the side of the wrist closest to the forearm are surgically removed to improve wrist function and decrease pain.
  2. A wrist fusion. Worn and/or damaged cartilage is removed and a plate and screws are used to fuse the wrist. After the procedure, the wrist can no longer move and pain decreases.
Because these are life changing surgeries, patients wishing to learn more should contact an orthopedic hand surgeon.