Osteoarthritis (OA) in the hands is often painful and can make everyday activities like turning a doorknob, brushing your teeth, or holding a pen challenging. Yet despite how common this condition is in older adults, treatment options are fairly limited. Most patients rely on home remedies (like ice packs and heating pads), over-the-counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and naproxen, and medicated creams.
Now a new study suggests that oral steroids might offer additional relief for osteoarthritis hand pain.
According to the research, which was presented at the annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR 2019) in Madrid, low-dose prednisolone (a type of glucocorticoid) significantly reduced pain and improved functioning in people with hand OA.
Researchers found took 92 patients with painful hand OA and swelling in the lining of the joint (synovial inflammation) and randomly assigned them to two groups: One group took 10 mg of prednisolone daily; the other got a placebo. After six weeks, members of the medication group fared substantially better in terms of pain and functioning.
Prednisolone is already used to treat other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, but research showing that it helps with any type of OA has been limited so far.
The traditional view of hand OA is that it’s a “wear-and-tear” kind of arthritis that results solely from physical stress to the joints over time. But in recent years experts have come to believe that inflammatory processes also play a major role in osteoarthritis. That might explain why a drug such as prednisolone could have a substantial impact.
“Our study provides evidence that local inflammation is a suitable target for drug treatment in hand osteoarthritis,” study author Féline Kroon, of Leiden University Medical Center in The Netherlands, said in a press release.