We will all eventually develop asymptomatic hand osteoarthritis (OA), if we are lucky to live long enough. However a percentage of us may not be not be so fortunate and develop SHOA (Symptomatic Hand OA) as we age.

Several studies have confirmed the possible risk factors for developing SHOA which include age, being female, obesity and possibly genetics. Although some assume SHOA may be related to excessive use of the hands or hand injuries, the studies to date don’t seem to support that claim. Former rugby and cricket players haven’t been shown to be at a greater risk of developing SHOA.

In this 2021 study, 60 patients with SHOA were randomly allocated to either an education/control group or an exercise group. The exercise group attended twice a week for 3 months and were educated on progressive hand strengthening exercises using the “Power-web” and the “Digi-extend”.

Regrettably the 12 weeks of strengthening did not appear to provide significant benefits to pain, grip strength and perception of improvement, although they did admit to being more satisfied and used less pain meds for their SHOA.

I personally like to prescribe people with SHOA to try paraffin wax baths; which are now inexpensive and safe, so they can ideally get their own home units.

Reference: Nery M, et al Effects of a progressive resistance exercise program in patients with hand osteoarthritis: A randomized, controlled trial with a blinded assessor. Clin Rehabil. 2021 Dec;35(12):1757-1767.

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