Q. I hear that arthritis most commonly affects the joints of the hand, particularly in women. As a woman, what can I do to avoid this?
A. While there are many different types of arthritis that exist, the most commonly recognized and the umbrella under which most fall, include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid
arthritis is generally hereditary and can be effectively treated, though difficult to avoid if there is family history that predisposes a patient to the disease.
Osteoarthritis affects the vast majority in some way at some point in their lives. It is most often the result of a previous injury or trauma and it may accompany other forms of arthritis such
as rheumatoid. And the simple wearing down of joints over a lifetime of use can also result in osteoarthritis.
While according to recent statistics approximately 90 percent of women and 80 percent of men between the ages of 75 and 79 suffer from osteoarthritis in their hands, there are some things that
can be done to reduce these numbers in the future and at least postpone the debilitating affects of joint degeneration, if not deter it.
- Avoid repetitive tasks that require the same constant motion, which may stress the joints and surrounding tissue.
- Avoid activities that place the hands at risk for injury – such as catching and throwing sports, contact sports, etc.
- Have any injury to the hand thoroughly examined and properly treated.
- Maintain a diet rich in nutrients for bone and joint health.
- Maintain an optimal level of physical fitness. Muscle helps to maintain bone density, which diminishes more quickly in women as they age, making them more vulnerable to fractures and dislocations - creating
unstable joint environments and deterioration.
- Discuss lifestyle choices and concerns with an orthopedic specialist for individual-specific preventative recommendations.
Q. I read a lot about problems with the thumb joint. Why are there so many problems associated with the thumb?
A. The thumb is capable of a broad range of motion - able to attain a greater range of movement in many directions compared to the fingers, easily rotating 90 degrees compared to the average
45 degrees of the other fingers as a result of the surface shapes of the two bones which comprise it. It is controlled by nine distinct muscles, which depend on the three major hand nerves to function.
Utilizing muscles arranged around the first metacarpal, the joint at the base of the thumb is able to rotate and oppose the fingers, which easily enables grasping and pinching. And a band of fibrous
tissue connecting the bones at the base of the thumb, called the ulnar collateral ligament, helps control thumb movement - preventing it from pointing excessively away from the hand.
A common form of arthritis affecting the hand is arthritis of the thumb, or basilar joint arthritis. This is so common because the unique range of motion that the thumb can achieve and the large role
it plays in everyday activities and sports predisposes it to injury. Injury to this joint can create instability and prompt a host of degenerative conditions, which, if not carefully monitored and properly treated,
can ultimately lead to arthritis and joint deterioration. Read more.