Do you stiffen up even at the mention of the word “arthritis”?

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, and according to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million Americans are living with the condition. Despite how common arthritis is, there are a lot of misconceptions about this disease – namely, that it’s just a fact of getting older and not much can be done about it. The truth is, two-thirds of those with arthritis are under 65, including 300,000 children. You don’t have to ‘just live with it,’ either. There are many treatment options, ranging from conservative methods to surgical solutions.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), a progressive, degenerative joint disease. This is the type of arthritis that typically brings people in to see an orthopedic surgeon. While hips and knees are commonly replaced joints, arthritis of the hand and wrist can be debilitating.

“Hand surgery is more delicate and fine tuned compared to the bigger joints,” said Orthopedic Surgeon Ramin Pooyan, D.O., a hand and upper extremity specialist with the Institute of Clinical Orthopedics and Neurosciences at Desert Regional Medical Center. “I became a hand surgeon because I was fascinated by the anatomy and the intricacy of the hands — how all the tendons, bones, nerves and muscles work together. If one thing is off, it affects the entire function.”

More than half of the people who come to see Dr. Pooyan at his practice have arthritis. “This condition is more common in women than men. It also frequently occurs in the non-dominant hand,” said Dr. Pooyan.

Pain and loss of function are the determining factors of why a person would consider surgery. This can be caused by anything from repetitive use to traumatic injuries. “If a finger is deformed by arthritis, but there is no pain and the movement is good, that’s not a reason for surgery,” Dr. Pooyan said.

Typically it is those with stage IV arthritis who have tried everything else that need pain relief through surgery. However, Dr. Pooyan said he has seen people with stage I or II arthritis who had severe pain that required surgical treatment.

On the surgical side, fusion of the joint may be recommended which provides excellent pain relief, but does limit motion. Dr. Pooyan also performs joint replacement of the knuckles or the middle joint. In the wrist, there are several different types of surgical treatment options. Surgery isn’t the only option, however. There are several over-the-counter and prescription medications, as well as cortisone injections and occupational therapy.

Dr. Pooyan will give a talk Tuesday, May 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Sun City Palm Desert called “When Handshakes Hurt.” He will discuss both conservative management and surgical options.

To learn more and to speak to Dr. Pooyan in person, register for the free lecture by calling (800) 491.4990. For more information about the Institute of Clinical Orthopedics at Desert Regional Medical Center, visit

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