Restoring Hand And Finger Movement Affected By Rheumatoid Arthritis

The arthritis in yours hands can eventually make it difficult to pick up or grasp objects. Your hands become weak, and moving your fingers is painful. Replacing affected finger joints with artificial ones makes your hands useful again. Here is what to expect from this artificial joint replacement surgery.

Artificial Joints Replace Damaged Bone and Cartilage

Cartilage at the ends of the finger bones prevent bone surfaces from rubbing against each other. The joints also contain a lubricating fluid to further reduce friction between bones. Rheumatoid arthritis damages your joints and makes moving them painful in two ways:

  • The cartilage between the finger bones is worn away so bones rub directly against each other. This causes inflammation in the joint and pain.
  • Less of the lubricating fluid in the joint is produced, creating additional friction between bones in the finger joints.

Artificial finger joints are plastic and metal and made to move smoothly against each other without the need for the lubricating fluid. The arthritis can't damage the surfaces of the artificial joints, so you'll have years of pain-free movement in your hands again.

Your orthopedic surgeon will remove portions of your finger joints and insert the artificial joint components into the remaining bones. This gets rid of the damaged cartilage and any abnormal bone growths or spurs that were causing inflammation and pain in your hands.

Recovering from This Hand Surgery

As the inflammation in your hands goes away after surgery, you'll be able to move and bend your fingers again easily. Your orthopedist will have you wear a hand splint to support your joints and fingers while the soft tissues heal. When your doctor is satisfied with the rate of healing in your hands, you'll begin working with a physical therapist to regain full function of your hands.

Physical therapy is focused on two outcomes:

  • regain flexibility in the muscles in your hand so you'll have full range of motion and be rid of any stiffness
  • strengthen the muscles in your hand to improve your grip

You will first spend several weeks slowly stretching out tense muscles that have atrophied due to lack of use. The therapist will measure the movement of each finger and help you work on individual muscles to improve flexibility of each finger joint. They will work with your hands to stretch out the muscles and will show you exercises you can do throughout the day.

You'll next work on strengthening the muscles in your hands and fingers. This will improve your ability to lift, grasp and open items with your hands. The therapist will use different machines to help build up the muscles in your hands, as well as show you exercises that you can do yourself, such as squeezing a foam ball. As the strength in your hand improves, you'll regain the normal usefulness of your hands again.

For more information, contact Northwoods Family Orthopaedics SC or a similar location.