They say that you can tell a lot about a person’s character from their hands, but ask any rheumatologist and it’s likely that they’ll be able to tell more than just your character from your hands. It won’t be surprising if they’ll be able to tell, in detail, all about your health history just from your hands. Some secrets are best kept, but you gotta hand it to mother nature when it comes to the human anatomy!
Ageing is inevitable, and many of us embrace the wisdom and pitfalls that come with it. It’s a bonus package. Arthritis of the hand may be one of them, but perhaps, like any other person, you cannot stand those bumps that form around the fingers?
It’s been revealed that approximately 60 percent of adults over the age of 60 have joint damage on the hands from arthritis.
In this article, we’ll share with you some tried and tested ways to reduce those unsightly finger bumps. After all, we don’t want the hand that rocked the cradle to look rocky and pebbly.
Types of arthritis in the hands
Whether we have office jobs or more labour-focused jobs, most of us work with our hands. This is why our hands bear the wear and tear that is arthritis that comes with age.
There are many kinds of arthritis, but these are the main types that can affect the hands:
This is the most common form of arthritis and it is also known as degenerative arthritis. This type of arthritis usually comes up later in life and it commonly affects the hands, hips and knees. Osteoarthritis is known to cause pain and deformity in joints, and it may also limit the range of the joint’s motion.
When one has osteoarthritis, there is a breakdown that happens in the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones. Once this cartilage or cushion degrades, the bones start to rub against each other in the joint. This is why osteoarthritis normally comes with stiffness, pain and loss of joint movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the entire body, most especially the joints. When one has an autoimmune system, it usually means that the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue. Our bodies contain synovium, a tissue that lines and nourishes our joints and tendons. When one has rheumatoid arthritis, it attacks the synovium, resulting in damage to the bones, joints and soft tissues.
Additional symptoms that one may experience with rheumatoid arthritis include pain at the wrist and knuckles, flu-like achiness throughout the body, unexplained fatigue, the inability to straighten the fingers (tendon ruptures) and deformities of the wrist and fingers.
It’s been known that women tend to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis more than men. This is because women tend to have stronger and more reactive immune systems. This comes with the fact that far more women get autoimmune diseases more than men. Hormones from pregnancy also are thought to play a big factor in rheumatoid arthritis.
Ah, this is the type of arthritis that debunks the common knowledge that arthritis only comes with age. Juvenile arthritis is the term used when the disease occurs before the age of 16. Juvenile arthritis causes pain and swelling of the joints in the hands and wrist. Injuries such as broken bones in the hands or tendon and ligament damage on the hands and wrists are the common causes of juvenile arthritis. The injury normally heals but the affected areas have already become weakened and will be highly susceptible to arthritis once again when they age.
Developing bumps in fingers from arthritis
Now let’s talk about the finger bumps. These bumps apparently have names. As they say, “Know thy enemy”, so let’s get to know these bumps. The bumps near the fingertips are called Heberden’s nodes. When they appear at the joint in the middle of the fingers, they are called Bouchard’s nodes. Except for the thumbs, the bumps that appear near the fingertips are the most common sites of hand arthritis. When it comes to the thumbs, it’s the base of the thumbs that are most affected.
How are the bumps formed?
When our joints are functioning as normal, our cartilage creates a smooth gliding surface for movement and for cushioning the joints. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage deteriorates. As this happens, the bones no longer have that cushion or padding during movement. The ends of the bones then tend to rub against each other, which results in friction, irritation, inflammation and stiffness. The damage from the friction and the wear and tear causes bony overgrowths called osteophytes (also known as bone spurs). When it comes to finger joints, these growths appear in the form of the visible bumps that you now see.
How can you get rid of these bumps?
Now let’s get matters in our own hands. Here are some tried and tested ways to reduce or get rid of those bumps known as Heberden’s and Bouchard’s nodes:
1. Hot and cold therapy
The combination of hot and cold therapy can reduce swelling and stiffness in your hands big time. When you’re battling these bumps, it’s best to have a secret weapon up your sleeve. For us, it’s the Hot and Cold Glove-shaped Hand Pack. This reusable hand pack provides cold treatment comfortably and immediately. It also stays flexible when frozen, meaning you don’t need to defrost for it to be usable. It gently contours around the hands and fits like a glove, literally.
To use it, place the affected hands in the cold glove for up to 15 minutes. The cold therapy will reduce swelling in the joints immediately.
Now this glove also provides hot therapy. This is useful especially in the mornings when your arthritis will likely cause stiffness in the joints. Pop the entire glove in the microwave and place your hand inside for that warm, comforting therapy to loosen the joints.
2. Hand Exercises
Strengthening your hands’ joints can keep the supportive ligaments flexible and can also help reduce pain in the hands. Over time, the exercises help you move your hands around with more ease.
A couple of hand exercises for this include squeezing a stress ball. A study done by the Arthritis Institute of America has found that squeezing a stress ball not only relieved the pain but improved the grip and strength in adults with hand osteoarthritis.
Another exercise gadget that can help is the classic hand grip. They can help work the palms, wrists and fingers in restoring dexterity, flexibility and strength. By strengthening your hand muscles, you will also help loosen the joints where those pesky nodes are sprouting.
3. Topical treatment
Topical treatments that contain capsaicin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can also help reduce pain and the nodes in hand arthritis. Capsaicin cream is a popular over-the-counter pain reliever that can treat joint pain caused by arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. It’s known to be effective even for deeper and bigger joints like the hips, back and shoulders. When used on the body, capsaicin causes a sensation of heat that activates certain nerve cells. The heating effect can reduce the amount of substance “P”, the chemical that acts as a pain messenger in our bodies.
4. Steroid injections
When topical and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do not work, a doctor may administer corticosteroid injections. When this is injected into inflamed joints, the cortisone minimizes inflammation around it, providing significant pain relief. When administered, cortisone shots normally cause a temporary flare in the pain and inflammation for up to 48 hours after injection. When you survive that, though, the affected swollen joints should decrease, and this can last up to several months.
In very severe cases, surgery can be recommended to help relieve hand arthritis. This is rare though, as sometimes you can sacrifice mobility for pain relief when opting to have hand surgery.
The two main surgical options for hand arthritis are fusion (arthrodesis) and total knuckle replacement (arthroplasty). The amount of time that will take for you to heal from hand surgery depends on the type of surgery you get and the severity of your arthritis condition. According to surgeons, tendon repair recovery can take up to 12 weeks for the hand to regain full strength and up to six months for the hand to regain full range of movement.
Just remember, if you opt to have surgery, this trusty hot and cold hand glove can provide cold treatment for post-surgery care.