Conservative Therapy for OA in the Fingers: A Literature Review

Beasley, J., Ward, L., Knipper-Fisher, K., Hughes, K., Lunsford, D., & Leiras, C. (2018). Conservative therapeutic interventions for osteoarthritic finger joints: A systematic review. Journal of Hand Therapy, 32. 153-164.

The Skinny – The article reviews the evidence on the effectiveness of conservative treatment for those who experience osteoarthritis in their finger joints.

In the Weeds– Eighteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Interventions reported in the literature review included active range of motion, gentle resistive exercises, joint protection strategies, electromagnetic therapy, paraffin wax, balneotherapy, as well as DIP orthoses.  

The results from the review yielded that there is high quality evidence supporting the use of electromagnetic therapy combined with hand exercises to decrease pain and increase overall function. There is moderate to high evidence for the use and wear of a DIP orthosis to decrease pain in the finger joint. Finally, it was reported that there was moderate evidence to support resistive exercises to improve overall grip strength and decrease pain for individual experiencing osteoarthritis in their hands.

Bringing it home – The authors concluded there are a variety of conservative treatments that may be utilized for those experiencing pain and stiffness from hand osteoarthritis. Interventions supported are  electromagnetic therapy with thera-ex, use of a dip orthosis for painful joints and gentle resistive hand exercises.  All should be performed within a pain free range.  

Overall, the article is well written and easy to follow. It was difficult to analyze studies due to lack of homogeneity among the studies.   The article provides evidence as to what conservative intervention are supported in the literature as well as insight into additional options for therapists.

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