How Are Herberden's Nodes a Sign of Osteoarthritis? (2023)

Heberden's nodes are small, pea-sized bony growths on the joint closest to the fingertip (the distal interphalangeal joint or DIP).

Heberden's nodes are a common sign of osteoarthritis (OA). They may or may not be painful depending on the stage of development they are in. While they are developing and growing, you may experience pain. However, once fully formed, the nodes typically do not hurt.

Treatments for Heberden's nodes include laser therapy, splints, and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain. Ice, heat, and physical therapy can also be effective, though some people may require surgery.

This article discusses Heberden's nodes, why they occur, and what you can do if you develop them.

How Are Herberden's Nodes a Sign of Osteoarthritis? (1)

Can Finger Arthritis Be Cured?

Heberden's Node Symptoms

Heberden's nodes occur more often in women than in men. They are more common on the fingers of a person's dominant hand.

The signs of developing Heberden's node usually start aroundmenopause for women and in middle age for men. Developing these nodes is a classic sign of osteoarthritis.

The pain and inflammation usually get better in a few years. Then, you'll be left with a bony painless bump on your finger—a Heberden's node.

Finger joints with Heberden's nodes may go off to one side and can also limit range of motion and functionality. For example, an index finger with a Heberden's node may point toward the middle finger instead of straight out.

Heberden vs. Bouchard Nodes

Heberden's nodes are the bony bumps on the joint closest to the fingertip, while Bouchard's nodes are the bony bump on the middle joint of the finger.

What Causes Pain and Swelling in Finger Joints?

Causes of Heberden's Nodes

Heberden's nodes often develop in people withhand osteoarthritis.When you have OA, the cartilage in your joints gradually wears away. Without cartilage, the bones in the joints rub together and become damaged over time.

Your body creates new bone to help compensate for damage to the bones caused by osteoarthritis. Heberden's nodes are one example of this.

Bone Spurs in Hands: Causes and Treatment

(Video) Osteoarthritis Of The Fingers Heberden's Nodes - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

Diagnosis of Heberden's Nodes

Your healthcare provider will usually diagnose Heberden's nodes based on:

  • Your symptoms
  • Your medical history
  • A physical exam

Your healthcare provider may also order X-rays to look for worn cartilage or bone spurs.

How Heberden's Nodes Are Treated

There is no set treatment for Heberden's nodes. People who have them can do many of the same treatments that are recommended for people with hand arthritis.

A 2016 study of people with Bouchard's nodes, Heberden's nodes, and OA found that having five to seven treatments with low-level laser therapy (LLLT) reduced pain and swelling. Some people could also move the affected finger better.

Heberden's nodes can hurt while they're forming. During this time, rest, splinting, over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs like Advil (ibruprofen) or Aleve (naproxen), topical agents like diclofenac gel and lidocaine, and heat or ice therapy can be helpful.

A 2020 study of women with hand OA found that wearing hand supports called orthoses at night also helped reduce pain and improve hand function.

You may want to work with a physical therapist or occupational therapist as well. They can use hand therapy to reduce pain and teach you how to use the fingers affected by the nodes.

Will I Need Surgery?

Surgery for Heberden's nodes is only done if a person's symptoms don't get better or they cannot use their finger at all. Sometimes, surgery can replace the joint. A surgeon can also take out the inflamed parts of the joint and put the joint back together. This is called joint fusion.

The good news is that once the bony node has formed, the pain goes away. However, range of motion, grip strength, and overall functionality can be limited.

When To See a Healthcare Provider

If you notice swelling in the joints of your fingertips or if you have other symptoms like loss of range of motion, see your healthcare provider.

Lifestyle Management Tips

Some of the things you can do to reduce pain of Heberden's nodes and prevent disability include:

  • Rest your hand whenever you can.
  • Alternate heat and cold therapy.
  • Wear a splint that helps support your finger joints.
  • Do gentle stretching and strengthening exercises of the hand and fingers as recommended by your physical or occupational therapist.
  • Adopt a healthier diet and avoid sugar, red meat, unhealthy fats, salt, and refined grains.

Osteoarthritis Diet: 8 Foods to Avoid


Heberden's nodes are bony swellings of the joints in the hand that are closest to the nail. When they are forming, the nodes can hurt. Once they are fully formed, the pain goes away. However, a person might be bothered by their appearance or limited range of motion.

There is no way to simply fix how the nodes look. However, if a person has Heberden's nodes because they have hand OA, surgery on the joint might help them use the finger better.

There are also ways to manage the pain that do not involve surgery, like taking OTC pain relievers and using heat therapy. Working with a physical therapist can also help people use hands that are affected by arthritis.

Can You Prevent Hand Arthritis?

A Word From Verywell

Since Heberden's nodes are easy to see, they can help you get diagnosed with hand osteoarthritis. If you think you have a Heberden's node and/or hand osteoarthritis, talk to your healthcare provider.

(Video) Heberden's nodes and Bouchard's nodes Osteoarthritis

There are other health conditions that can look like hand osteoarthritis but are not. Once you have a sure diagnosis, you can get the right treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I prevent Heberden's nodes?

    If you're at risk for developing hand arthritis with nodes (nodular), you'll probably get Heberden's nodes eventually. However, you can help protect your joints by eating a nutrient-rich diet, staying physically active, and losing weight if your healthcare provider advises you to.

    Learn More:Is Arthritis Inherited?

  • Does rheumatoid arthritis cause Heberden's nodes?

    People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may have swelling and redness from the inflammation in the finger joints when the condition flares up.

    However, Heberden's nodes typically are not a sign of RA. The exception is when people develop osteoarthritis and RA.

    Learn More:Early Signs of RA

  • Will glucosamine or chondroitin supplements help treat Heberden's nodes?

    (Video) Osteoarthritis Of The Fingers, Heberden's Nodes - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

    There is not enough evidence to support claims that these supplements protect all joints. The American College of Rheumatology recommends that some people with hand arthritis take chondroitin supplements. However, you should talk to your doctor before you try them.

    Learn More:Are There Supplements for Arthritis?

10 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Allado E, Wittoek R, Albuisson E, et al. Topographical analysis of structural lesions between dominant and non-dominant hands in erosive osteoarthritis. Rheumatol Int. 2021;41(3):617-623. doi:10.1007/s00296-020-04784-1

  2. National Institute on Aging. Osteoarthritis.

  3. Doherty M, Abhishek A, Hunter D. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of osteoarthritis. In: Hunter D, Ramirez Curtis M, eds. UpToDate. 2017:1-30.

  4. Baltzer AW, Ostapczuk MS, Stosch D. Positive effects of low level laser therapy (LLLT) on Bouchard's and Heberden's osteoarthritis.Lasers Surg Med. 2016;48(5):498-504. doi:10.1002/lsm.22480

  5. Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis of the hands.

  6. Silva PG, de Carvalho Silva F, da Rocha Corrêa Fernandes A, Natour J. Effectiveness of nighttime orthoses in controlling pain for women with hand osteoarthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Am J Occup Ther. 2020;74(3):7403205080p1-7403205080p10. doi:10.5014/ajot.2020.033621

    (Video) Bouchard’s and Heberden’s nodes : Clinical essentials

  7. American Society for Surgery of Hand. Osteoarthritis.

  8. Thomas S, Browne H, Mobasheri A, Rayman MP. What is the evidence for a role for diet and nutrition in osteoarthritis? Rheumatology (Oxford). 2018;57(suppl_4):iv61-iv74. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/key011

  9. Osteoarthritis vs. rheumatoid arthritis.

  10. Kolasinski SL, Neogi T, Hochberg MC, et al. 2019 American College of Rheumatology/Arthritis Foundation guideline for the management of osteoarthritis of the hand, hip, and knee [published correction appears in Arthritis Rheumatol. 2021 May;73(5):799].Arthritis Rheumatol. 2020;72(2):220-233. doi:10.1002/art.41142

How Are Herberden's Nodes a Sign of Osteoarthritis? (2)

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer who covers arthritis and chronic illness. She is the author of "The Everything Health Guide to Arthritis."

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(Video) Heberden's Nodes and Finger Arthritis - An Orthopaedic Moment

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How Are Herberden's Nodes a Sign of Osteoarthritis? ›

Heberden's nodes present as bumps on your finger joints. They are a sign of osteoarthritis caused by the breakdown of cartilage at joints.

Does osteoarthritis cause Heberden's nodes? ›

Heberden's nodes are small bony growths that appear on the joint closest to the tip of your finger. Along with Bouchard's nodes, Heberden's nodes are a symptom of osteoarthritis of the hands. They can cause pain and limited motion in your hands.

What causes Heberden's nodes? ›

The main cause of Heberden's nodes is osteoarthritis. That's a form of arthritis that happens when the tissue that covers the ends of your bones -- called cartilage -- wears away. Your cartilage can break down because of slow wear and tear over time or if you have an injury to the joint.

Can you have Heberden's nodes without arthritis? ›

They usually affect the joints nearest the fingertips and can cause pain and stiffness. The fingers may appear crooked. Heberden's nodes only develop in people who have osteoarthritis (OA), which is a degenerative bone condition.

What causes Heberden and Bouchard nodes? ›

What Are the Causes of Heberden's and Bouchard's Nodes? Heberden's and Bouchard's nodes are the result of a degenerative joint disease called osteoarthritis. This condition happens when the protective cartilage, the firm, flexible tissue, at the ends of your finger bones and joints wear down over time.


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