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Archive for March, 2012

Heberden’s Nodes

March 31, 2012

Osteoarthritis symptoms of the hand can include difficulty bending and flexing your fingers, joint pain, and morning stiffness. Along with joint swelling and crepitus, common with finger arthritis, Heberden’s nodes can also appear.

Heberden’s nodes are growths of bone on the distal interphalangeal joints (DIPs).  These bumps can be a clear indication of  hand osteoarthritis.

Dr. William Heberden (1710 – 1801) was an english doctor who first described these bumps:

“What are those little hard knobs, about the size of a small pea, which are frequently seen upon the fingers, particularly a little below the top near the joint? They have no connection with the gout, being found in persons who never had it: they con- tinue for life: and being hardly ever attended with pain, or disposed to become sore, are rather un- sightly than inconvenient, though they must be some little hindrance to the free use of the fingers.”

Dr. Heberden was ahead of his time.  He didn’t believe in blood-letting, sweating, and purging – all common treatment options during that day and age.  He was known as the “Father of Observation”.

An ice pack or finger splint can help.


Bouchard’s Nodes

March 29, 2012


Bouchard’s nodes are often associated with osteoarthritis.  These bony prominences appear as bumps in the middle finger joints.  These knuckles are also called the proximal interphalangeal joints, or PIPs.

These bumps may hurt, or they may not.  However Bouchard’s nodes most always affect how fingers flex and extend.  Some researchers believe these bumps are strongly hereditary and that they are caused by osteophytes.

Cold therapy, finger splints, anti inflammatory medication, and hand therapy are all treatment options for finger arthritis.

Charles-Joseph Bouchard (1837 – 1915) was a french doctor who studied arthritis.


Finger Arthritis

March 27, 2012


Which finger joints are most likely to be effected by osteoarthritis?

The mid-finger (PIP – proximal interphalangeal joint) and fingertip (DIP – distal interphalangeal joints) knuckles are most likely to suffer.  These joints can become swollen, stiff, and enlarged.  This condition is usually the result of years of wear-and tear.

Joint health supplements, anti-inflammatory medications, therapy, cortisone injections, cold therapy and finger splints can all be all used to treat osteoarthritis of the finger.


We get asked all the time if cracking knuckles leads to finger arthritis.  The simple answer is “no” because there isn’t much research on the subject.  But just because science hasn’t found a direct link between knuckle cracking and arthritis doesn’t mean cracking knuckles is healthy for your fingers.  The habit can lead to other hand-related problems and there is no benefit.

The habit usually stems from the sound.  Some people find a sense of satisfaction in hearing their knuckles pop.  The “pop” comes when the fingers are stretched apart.  What happens is that the space within the finger joint widens as the fingers are stretched.  Gas bubbles can be introduced within the synovial fluid (the lubricant that protects your finger joints) as a result of this stretching.  Those bubbles popping are the satisfying sound that people hear when they over-stretch their fingers.

The medical director of the Providence Arthritis Center at Providence Portland Medical Center, Peter Bonafede, M.D. conducted some research on the subject of knuckle cracking.  Dr. Bonafede’s research points at one study that was conducted in 1990.  Hand function was studied in 200 people older than 45.  There were 74 habitual knuckle crackers in the group.  The knuckle crackers were more likely to have swollen hands, and reduced hand strength but they were not more likely to have arthritis.

But even though cracking your knuckles may not lead to cmc arthritis, it is still gross.


What are the symptoms of CMC Arthritis – also called Basal Joint arthritis or thumb arthritis?

  • Thumb pain when trying to grip or pinch
  • The base of the thumb can be swollen and tender
  • Prolonged ache and / or discomfort
  • Loss of grip strength
  • The thumb looks out of place
  • The thumb can’t move like it used to
  • Bony bumps appear on the joint

Basal Arthritis

March 21, 2012

What treatments are available for thumb pain associated with basal joint arthritis?

Many people who suffer from mild hand arthritis will benefit from anti-inflammatory drugs and avoiding painful movements.  A cortisone injection usually helps for a short period of time, usually one or two months.  Ice or cold therapy will help in fifteen minute intervals as well.

When it comes to a thumb brace or a thumb splint, an orthopedic appliance that supports the thumb will usually offer more pain relief than just a wrist place.  The best type of thumb brace for basal joint arthritis will reposition the thumb so that the arthritic finger does not hurt.



This video shows how to use the “Donning Pole” for loading a compression garment onto the compression stocking applicator.  This device helps save arthritic fingers from struggling with putting on and taking off compression hosiery.  Poor finger strength no longer has to be an issue when it comes to hosiery compliance.

Learn more about easier ways to apply and remove compression stockings.


The basal joint is located at the bottom of the thumb.  It allows the thumb to rotate and swivel.  It is also called the carpometacarpal joint.
Osteoarthritis often finds a home in the basal joint because we use our hands a lot.  Injury or trauma can lead to arthritis but so can overuse.  And who doesn’t overuse their thumbs?
Patients who experience CMC Arthritis or Basal Joint Arthritis will lose grip strength and have pain and sometimes swelling.  A thumb splint or thumb brace can help.

What does CMC arthritis feel like.  Well, it hurts.  Pain is the primary symptom for people suffering with basal joint arthritis.  At first the pain usually comes and goes during activity.  Once the activity is underway the pain usually subsides and then returns once the thumb is resting.  As the CMC arthritis gets worse the pain will become more constant.  It will become difficult to grip things and then pain will spread from the base of the thumb to the heel part of the hand.

Once the cartilage begins to erode and the bones rub together there may squeaking or cracking – this is called crepitus.

The joint will become stiff and difficult to move.   Warmth and compression can help.  Most neoprene thumb braces can provide this.



Arthritis of the hand no longer has to prevent a person from wearing compression garments.  Look at how easy a compression stocking can be applied.  Watch more videos about applying compression stockings with hand arthritis.