Pain Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis (Deformed Fingers)

Pain Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis (Deformed Fingers)

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Use tools with large handles to reduce arthritic pain when you garden.

Hemera Technologies/ Images

Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1 percent of people in the U.S. Pain from joint deformity caused by advanced rheumatoid arthritis is debilitating, but treatments to relieve pain, including home remedies, splints, medications, radiation and surgery, can significantly improve your quality of life. Talk with your doctor to determine which treatments are appropriate for you.

Home Remedies

You may be able to get temporary relief from arthritic finger deformity pain with home remedies. Applying heat decreases pain, relaxes tight muscles and improves flexibility by increasing blood flow to painful joints. Options you can use at home include microwavable hot packs, warm water soaks and home paraffin wax units. Compression gloves can also be worn intermittently during the day or while you sleep to decrease the swelling and pain that often accompany joint deformity. Consult a health care professional to ensure a proper fit.


Splints hold arthritic finger joints in proper alignment, reducing pain and improving function. Ring splints are worn around the affected joint, leaving other joints in your fingers free to move. Joint deformity and pain often develop at the base of the thumb with rheumatoid arthritis. A variety of splints can be worn to support this joint, but custom molded splints are the most comfortable and effective. Splints can be worn during the day to make activities easier, and at night to keep your joints from moving into a painful position. Consult your doctor to determine which splints would be appropriate for your hands.


Your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroid medications to reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system activity that is disrupted with rheumatoid arthritis. Corticosteroids are effective at reducing pain in the advanced stages of rheumatoid arthritis, but negative side effects often prevent long-term use. Corticosteroid medications can also be injected directly into the painful joint. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs are prescribed to decrease inflammation and have the added benefit of slowing the progression of the disease. Methotrexate is the most commonly prescribed DMARD for rheumatoid arthritis.

Radiation Synovectomy

Radiation synovectomy is an effective treatment for long-term relief of arthritic finger pain and deformity after 6 months of medical interventions or at least 1 cortisone injection have not provided significant relief. Radioactive agents are first injected into the joint, sometimes using ultrasound or flouroscopy to help visualize the joint. Radiation is then used to destroy inflamed tissue surrounding the joint.


Surgery is sometimes necessary to treat severe finger pain and deformity caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Two of the most common finger deformities -- swan-neck and boutonniere -- are addressed with surgical techniques that release tightness and repair damaged tendons. Painful joints sometimes become fused, preventing you from being able to move them. Because using your fingers is important for daily life, your doctor may suggest silicone prosthetic implants to replace the damaged areas and allow you to use your hands.