Have you got one hand in your pocket, and the other one’s giving a “I surrender” sign? If you find your hands crippled from arthritis pain, please don’t lose hope. Yes, some things naturally come with age (such as, well, arthritis), but that doesn’t mean we cannot take matters into our own hands.
What is hand arthritis?
First of all, let’s define hand arthritis. Arthritis itself is a general term that pertains to several conditions that affect the joints. The not-so-good news is that arthritis is generally not preventable, but you may be able to reduce the risk and manage it well.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Some arthritis causes stiffness and pain in the joints, while some attack the body’s immune system. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, and type commonly affects the joints in the hands, hips and knees.
The 3 main types of hand arthritis
There are three main types of arthritis that affect the hands. For most of our lives, we will be working with our hands, and this is the main reason why hands are affected by arthritis—they bear the blows of wear and tear that comes with ageing.
Also known as degenerative arthritis, this is the most common type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis usually creeps up in the later years of life. Known to cause deformity and pain in joints, it commonly affects one’s hands, hips and knees.
Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage that cushions the ends of our bones breaks down. As this cartilage degrades, the ends of the bones start rubbing against each other. This is what causes the pain, stiffness and loss of movement that comes with degenerative arthritis.
This is a type of autoimmune disease that attacks the body joints. When one has rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system tends to attack its own tissue.
The body’s synovium, the tissue that lines our joints and tendons, gets attacked with rheumatoid arthritis, so this often results in bone, joint and soft tissue damage.
Because women get far more autoimmune diseases more than men, their immune system tends to be stronger and more reactive. This is the reason why women are more prone to rheumatoid arthritis than men. Another factor at play here are hormones that come from pregnancy and monthly cycles, which are believed to play a factor in rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include flu-like aches in the body, pain in the wrist and knuckles, unexplainable exhaustion and inability to straighten the fingers.
Not all unpleasant things creep up with age. Such is the case with juvenile arthritis, because this disease occurs before a person reaches the age of 16.
The joints in the hands and wrist swell and become painful with juvenile arthritis. The most common reason and cause of juvenile arthritis is injury, especially when young people sustain injuries that lead to broken bones or tendons or ligament damage in the hands and wrists.
These injuries normally heal without complications. However, because the affected areas in the hands or joints have already weakened, the injured area will be highly susceptible to arthritis again in later years.
How to manage arthritis pain in hands naturally (drug and surgery-free)
The hot and cold treatment
This is the only hot and cold treatment known to mankind that makes them feel better afterwards. Cold therapy, or cryotherapy, is great for reducing swollen joints and knuckles in the hands. The cold temperature will also act as pain relief for those sore joints. When you have hand arthritis, it would be smart to invest in glove-shaped hot and cold hand packs. Just place them in the freezer and take them out later when you need them. They can provide up to 19 minutes of ice therapy.
The best part, too, is that they are flexible when frozen, so there’s no need for defrost time. All you need to do is slip your hands inside the glove and get cold therapy relief immediately.
But wait, there’s more! This glove hand pack also works as a warm pack for hot therapy. When heated in short bursts in the microwave, it gives warm comfort to hands, especially in the mornings. Mornings are notorious for hand arthritis because that’s when joints are particularly stiff, making movement extra difficult. When you slip on the warm gloves, the hot therapy will encourage blood flow in the hands, reducing stiffness and discomfort.
Stop smoking and keep a healthy weight
This may sound like a general “how to be healthy” advice, but it will really come in handy when you’re trying to manage arthritis pain. When you’re active and regularly engage in physical activity, your joints will get stronger as they get used to movement. The muscles around the joints are also strengthened, so they can provide extra support when arthritis attacks.
In relation to the above tip of keeping a healthy weight, it’s also important to know some hand exercises. Especially those that can prevent and alleviate arthritis pain in the hands.
Here are some examples:
Making a fist – This sounds extremely simple, but it will help a lot in providing mobility in the hands. Start by opening your palms out, with the fingers and thumb straight out. Then, curl your fingers slowly into the palm. Do two variations of this: closing or making a fist with your thumb inside the rest of your fingers, and making a fist with your thumb just outside the fingers. Do not squeeze too hard, but hold the fist position for three seconds before releasing. Repeat the entire sequence 10 times.
Using a stress ball – If you do not have any stress ball, a tennis ball will also do. Similar to the first exercise, you close your fingers around the ball, open and close again. The motion should be very deliberate and slow. Grip the ball for a full three seconds before opening the hands again. Do this sequence 10 times.
Adjust daily chores and habits
When you have hand arthritis, your hands will have difficulty performing normal tasks because the joints would have lost some mobility. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to do the usual things in a different way.
These are some of the things that you can do differently:
- Instead of using fingers to carry paper or shopping bags, loop them in your forearm so that your fingers and hands are free from carrying weight.
- Change your office and work setting. Change to an ergonomic keyboard and mouse if you need to do computer work. Instead of typing, you can also use a dictation software.
- Avoid lifting heavy items that can put strain on the hands and fingers.
- Change your utensils such as knives, spoons and forks with those that have large and handles that are easy to grip.
- If you need to write, there are special pens and pencils that are extra wide with non-slip grip available for easier use.
Most of the pain that comes with having hand arthritis is when the joints are not stable enough. Using a splint, brace or hand or wrist sleeve may help as they can hold your hand in a stable position that won’t require the joints to move.
With the right discipline and care, it is possible to manage hand arthritis pain without drugs or surgery. We hope you were able to pick up useful tips and tricks to lessen hand arthritis pain.