Osteoarthritic finger pain can be a frustrating and debilitating condition. The inflammation and stiffness can make it hard to do everyday activities like opening a jar or typing on a keyboard. Finger pain can also make it hard to enjoy favorite hobbies, like playing the guitar or knitting.
A few different treatment options are available for dealing with arthritic pain, with varying degrees of invasiveness, safety, and success. One interesting new option that’s currently being studied is the injection of your own fat into the affected joint.
How It Works
The technique behind this treatment strategy is called lipofilling. A small amount of fat is taken from another area of your body through liposuction. The fat is then purified and injected into the arthritic finger joint.
Lipofilling is normally used for cosmetic purposes, like increasing the fullness of your lips, reducing wrinkles, or repairing damage from breast reconstruction surgery. Now it’s being considered a possible treatment for arthritis.
Although it’s not fully understood why it helps, it’s thought that the injection of fat may help to lubricate the joint. The stem cells in the fat may also help reduce inflammation and stimulate the healing of worn-down cartilage—the characteristic feature of arthritis.
This technique is minimally invasive and doesn’t require surgery, stitching, or anesthesia, which reduces the risk of complications.
Does it Really Work?
The clinical research on the use of fat injections for treating arthritis is still in its early stages. A few small studies have been conducted, but larger, more definitive studies are needed to determine how effective this treatment is.
In one study, a total of 28 fingers (from 18 different patients) were treated with lipofilling. The patients generally reported a significant reduction in pain and an increase in grip strength and finger-pinching ability. For a few people, the effects took a few months to appear. And for a few others, the procedure had little or no effect. No adverse reactions were reported. So while the initial evidence is not 100% successful, it does appear to be a safe and effective treatment option.
Another study tested the effect of fat injections for knee osteoarthritis. In that experiment, all 30 patients tested reported some degree of pain reduction. Eight people reported complete or near-complete symptom relief, and 16 were able to return to vigorous exercise activities. Six people reported little or no benefits to their pain or functionality.
Should I Try It?
This treatment option is still new and may not be available in your area. But if you’re struggling to find relief from arthritic finger pain, talk to your doctor about what treatments you can try. If lipofilling is an option, it may be worth considering, especially if other treatments haven’t worked well for you.