Signs of Hand and Wrist Osteoarthritis

Are your hands, fingers, thumbs or wrists causing you bother?

You may be experiencing:

  1. Pain and Discomfort – particularly on movement 
  2. Swelling and Tenderness
  3. Deformity of the finger joints, including small bony bumps on the back of the joint called Heberden’s nodes
  4. Limited Movement and loss of function

Low-dose radiotherapy treatment can relieve all these synmptoms and get you back to your normal activities.

Managing Osteoarthritis of the Hands

Effective ways of dealing with hand and wrist osteoarthritis include: 

  1. Avoiding things that cause you pain
  2. Immobilisation of the hand or bracing 
  3. Exercises and stretching
  4. Cold and heat treatments
  5. Medication and injections 
  6. Radiotherapy
  7. Surgery 

Radiotherapy is a way to reduce inflammation and pain. This leads to improved function in the hand and wrist joints so that you can do the things that you need to do – moving them properly with less stiffness and pain. 

What is Low Dose Radiotherapy?

Low-dose radiotherapy is a specialised technique that reduces pain and inflammation using very low dose and carefully controlled radiation treatments. 

Unlike the stronger radiotherapy used in cancer treatment, much lower doses of radiotherapy are used to treat hand and wrist osteoarthritis (OA). The use of low radiation levels ensures that the treatment is very safe.

This is a non-invasive treatment that does not involve any injections or surgery. It is exclusively focused towards the affected areas and does not affect the rest of the body.

It’s given as an outpatient, so that you can keep on doing your normal activities without needing a break during treatment. Since it is very low dose, it tends to have only very mild (if any) side effects.

A typical course of radiotherapy involves six treatments given over 2 to 3 weeks. Each treatment, delivered as an outpatient, takes less than 10 minutes. About 70% of patients may need a second course of radiotherapy to maximize the benefits. 

When to consider radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can be a good option for hand and wrist osteoarthritis when other methods aren’t working or when symptoms are worsening.

You should consider radiotherapy for:

  1. Persistent Pain and Inflammation

If you still have pain despite using self-help treatments like avoiding certain activites and using a brace

  1. Medicines are not helping

Where simple pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs aren’t working well enough or are causing side-effects

  1. Symptoms getting worse

If you notice increased pain and discomfort.

  1. Don’t Want Surgery

If you are not suitable, for instance due to personal choice or other health conditions.

In any of these situations, low dose radiotherapy to the fingers, hand and wrist offers an alternative approach to address osteoarthritis symptoms, including pain relief and improved joint function.

How Can Radiotherapy Help Wrist Osteoarthritis?

    1. Pain Reduction

Recent research shows that low-dose radiotherapy reduces pain from hand and wrist osteoarthritis in around 7 out of 10 people.

    1. Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Scientific evidence shows that radiotherapy reduces inflammation, leading to reduced swelling in the affected joints. This reduction helps reduce pain and improves joint function.

    1. Improved Mobility

People having radiotherapy may report substantial improvements in overall joint performance, which can include increased ease of movement, allowing for greater finger, thumb and wrist mobility.

    1. Addresses Multiple symptoms

Radiotherapy can help with various symptoms such as swelling, stiffness, and discomfort in the joints of the fingers, thumb and wrist. This can improve overall quality of life for those dealing with these problems.

    1. Sustained and Long-lasting Benefits

Some studies suggest that the benefits of radiotherapy, especially in pain reduction, may last over a considerable period, resulting in long-lasting relief.

Safety of the radiation therapy treatment

Low-Dose Radiotherapy is a very safe treatment for hand and wrist osteoarthritis. This is due to various factors:

  • Low-Dose

This ensures effective treatment with very few side effects

  • Precise 

Radiotherapy is focused towards only the specific areas causing trouble. This way, the surrounding areas are not affected by the treatment

  • Mild side effects

Low-dose radiotherapy typically causes only very mild redness or perhaps some dry skin in the treatment area

  • Non-Surgical 

Radiotherapy treatment is a non-surgical way to treat osteoarthritis in the hand and wrist joints. This allows you to avoid the risks involved in invasive surgery

The areas we can target

The fingers

Pain relief in any joints, including Heberden’s nodes, Bouchard’s nodes and in the knuckle joints

The thumb

Relief of symptoms especially at the base of the thumb, to relieve stiffness and to improve twisting and gripping actions, for instance opening jars and turning keys

The wrist

Relief of stiffness and pain and improvement of wrist movement


Side Effects of Radiotherapy for Wrist Osteoarthritis

The side effects of low dose radiotherapy tend to be very mild. 

These can include:

  • Skin Reactions

You may get a bit of redness, dryness, or irritation in the treated area. Typically, these effects disappear a couple of weeks after finishing the treatment.

  • Tiredness

Sometimes people feel a bit tired during or after the treatment. However, this tends to settle down once the treatment has finished and energy levels usually improve quickly after that.

Radiotherapy is a straightforward outpatient procedure which doesn’t need an anaesthetic, injections or surgery. You can easily schedule it around your regular work or other activities.

Before starting radiation therapy, we’ll thoroughly discuss any potential side effects with you. We will provide comprehensive information about the risks and benefits of the treatment, so that you can make the best decisions possible.

Do You Have Any Questions?

Explore detailed answers to common queries on our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.