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Causes of Osteoarthritis in the Hand

hand osteoarthritis

Hand osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition that, over time, wears down the cartilage between the hand bones and joints. Without the cushioning effect of the cartilage, the bones begin to rub against each other during movement, which can lead to pain, inflammation, swelling, and deformities. 

Hand osteoarthritis – also known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis – commonly develops due to aging. However, other factors might put you at greater risk of suffering from this condition – let’s look at them below. 


A gradual loss of cartilage is a normal part of aging, which makes getting older the single most significant contributing factor to hand OA. Adults older than 50 are at the highest risk of developing this condition. 

Genetic Factors

Around 65% of cases of hand OA have a genetic component. Inherited factors include mutations in the genes responsible for forming and maintaining hard tissues (such as bones) and for keeping cartilage healthy. If OA is caused by a genetic factor, this disease can emerge early on in life and progress quickly. 


Females are at greater risk of developing hand osteoarthritis. Reasons for the higher prevalence of OA among women include:

  • Women’s joints are more lax and less stable, thus leading to components getting out of alignment and rubbing against each other.
  • Women experience a drop in inflammation-fighting estrogen levels during menopause, making them more likely to suffer from inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. 
  • The immune response in women is stronger than in men, which increases the risk of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. 


Even if properly healed, new and old injuries that have caused damage to the cartilage might increase the risk of osteoarthritis. This is because the cartilage in adults does not regenerate naturally once it is damaged or deteriorating.

Occupational Factors

Some occupational factors are linked to a greater prevalence of hand OA. These involve working in professions that cause exposure to vibration or require repetitive hand movements and weight lifting.

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Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in the Hand


example of hands affected by osteoarthritis


Although hand osteoarthritis can affect any of the joints in the hand, it is more prevalent in three particular joints. These are:

  • The joint that connects the base of the thumb with the wrist
  • The middle joint of the fingers
  • The joint in the finger closest to the fingertips

Depending on what joint is affected by OA, you’ll experience the symptoms below in different areas of the hand. 

Additionally, the symptoms of OA tend to start slow and grow in severity and intensity over time. This makes learning to identify the early signs of osteoarthritis a priority for people at higher risk of developing this degenerative disease of the joint. 

Let’s look at the signs you should watch out for below.  

Chronic Pain

Hand osteoarthritis is most commonly characterized by pain. At first, this might appear as mild or occasional discomfort. However, when left unaddressed, it can turn into a sharp pain that intensifies after hand use, radiates through the wrist and arm, and keeps you awake at night.  

Reduced Range of Motion in the Hand and Fingers

Osteoarthritis can lead to inhibited hand and finger mobility, as well as loss of flexibility. This happens because the pain makes hand movements undesirable and, in turn, underuse of your hands and fingers, which can cause muscle weakness. 

Over time, a loss of cartilage can cause the bones to fall out of alignment and move improperly, which can lead to mechanical issues. In severe cases, OA will prevent you from completely opening and closing your fingers. 


As hand osteoarthritis progresses, you might begin to hear “clicking” or “crackling” noises when you move your hand. This happens when the components of the joints don’t slide properly against each other and start to momentarily lock up during movement. 

What’s more, if OA has caused misalignments in the joint’s structure, the surrounding ligaments and tendons will snap from one bone to another when moving your hand, which can make “popping” noises. 

Bony Lumps and Deformities

If left unaddressed for too long, OA can cause the bones that compose the affected joint to rub against each other during movement. This also causes the cartilage to become uneven and deteriorate in those areas. 

Over time, this can lead to nodules, which are bony lumps growing on the outside of the joint’s bones. This is caused by the body attempting to repair the deteriorating cartilage by growing new hard tissue. 


Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition and, as such, causes swelling and redness. The increased blood flow and fluid build-up to the injured area can prevent you from moving your joints freely, which leads to stiffness and reduced grip strength.

Regenerative Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis in the Hand

As your hand becomes weaker and your movements more painful, you might begin to struggle with even the simplest activities, such as turning a doorknob or tying your shoes. But battling hand osteoarthritis does not have to condemn you to live a life dependent on medications or surgical interventions. 

Today’s availability of regenerative orthopedic treatments can help you restore your hand’s function and magnify your life without resorting to surgery or painkillers. The specialists at Orthagenex have created a regenerative orthopedic treatment program tailored to your unique needs.

Super-Concentrated PRP for Hand OA

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) refers to autologous blood samples that have been processed to have platelet concentrations that are 10-40 times higher than baseline levels using a laboratory setting. The use of PRP in regenerative medicine has received significant interest, due to its ability to deliver high concentrations of growth factors precisely and non-invasively to an area in need.

PRP procedures involve injecting the body’s own healing factors (platelets) into the injured tissue using image guidance with fluoroscopy and MSK ultrasound. This procedure can be used to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions, including joint instability, minor arthritis, ligament, and tendon injuries, and strains.

More than 30 randomized controlled trials have been carried out on the effectiveness of PRP to support the body’s ability to heal naturally by stimulating the stem cells within the targeted area.

Bone Marrow Concentrate Stem Cell Injections for Hand Osteoarthritis

Stem cells are an essential component of the human body and play an important role in the repair of injured bones, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. However, when we age or suffer an injury, the body may become unable to deliver enough stem cells to the area in need.

To help with this, bone marrow concentrate procedures at Orthagenex use imaging guidance to deliver concentrated bone marrow containing stem cells to the area in need. This encourages the body’s inherent ability to heal itself by replenishing cell population in the injured area.

In practice, bone marrow concentrate procedures are carried out by cannulating the bone near the pelvis with a trocar, a sharp-tipped device. This provides a narrow tunnel that can be used to collect samples of the bone marrow’s liquid component, which is rich in stem cells.

BMC procedures can assist patients in improving their orthopedic health and mobility without the lengthy and painful rehabilitation periods associated with surgery.



Hand osteoarthritis can be a life-changing condition that can get in the way of all aspects of your professional, personal, and social life. Today, there is a third option that does not involve relying on medications or facing invasive surgery: regenerative orthopedic treatments. 

If you are ready to take the first step to improve your hand’s function and magnify your life, Orthagenex can help.

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