We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more
For more information, go to

Did a broken finger prevent the onset of arthritis?

Q) My mother, her sister and her father have (or had) in later life hands and finger joints seriously affected by arthritis. However, about 15 years ago my mother broke a finger before the onset of arthritis. It was pinned with a metal rod of some kind for several weeks. This pin was then removed and the finger made a complete recovery. My mother is now in her 80s and this finger is still free of all symptoms of arthritis but the others are ALL affected. Might it be that the break itself or the method of treatment has kept this finger free from the condition? Have you an explanation of what has protected this finger from arthritis?
Warwick Riley, Bedfordshire (Autumn 2011)

A) This is very interesting. I can add some more observations to yours. When damage to bones is assessed in rheumatoid arthritis less damage occurs in fingers wearing gold rings. Is this an effect of the gold? Next, people who have a stroke prior to the onset of their arthritis find that the arthritis is mild on the stroke side. In fact, any sort of nerve damage can protect the joints from arthritis. I shall add your observation to my collection. Why does this occur? It's not entirely clear. Perhaps not using a joint prevents damage occurring. This is how we used to treat arthritis before drugs – with splinting and rest. Perhaps nerves exert some sort of controlling influence on the tissues they serve. These sorts of observations provide the stimulus to further research in this area.

For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.