Hand osteoarthritis-nonpharmacological and pharmacological treatments

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2014 Apr;10(4):242-51. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2013.214. Epub 2014 Jan 28.


Hand osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent disease with a high clinical burden. The number of clinical trials in hand OA is limited and, therefore, recommendations for the management of hand OA are mostly expert-based instead of evidence-based, and medication is often prescribed off-label. However, in the past 5 years, this 'forgotten' disease has attracted increasing attention and a number of high-quality clinical trials have now been performed, or are ongoing. The results from studies conducted to assess nonpharmacological treatment modalities indicate that educating patients about self-management, the provision of assistive devices and the application of splints for thumb base OA, are effective for pain and disability. For pharmacological management, more high-quality trials are needed, although evidence is available for short-term symptom alleviation of pain by topical and oral NSAIDs. The role of anti-inflammatory medication, such as corticosteroids and biologic agents, is controversial, and the same holds true for the efficacy of symptomatic slow acting drugs for OA. Disease modifying OA drugs (DMOADs) for hand OA are currently not available. The results from the ongoing pharmacological trials will increase our knowledge for evidence-based management of hand OA in the near future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Hand / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Self Care
  • Splints


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal