Arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability, and many Americans eventually develop some form of the condition. Larger joints like hips and knees tend to get a lot of attention, as they can severely affect mobility. But arthritis pain in hands can affect quality of life, especially after retirement.
What is arthritis, and why does it hurt?
“Arthritis” is a general term used to describe a range of joint disorders. Among the most common are:
- Osteoarthritis: Affecting more than 30 million Americans, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones breaks down from wear and tear. Increased friction in the joint causes swelling and pain. In later stages bony spurs or bone-on-bone contact can occur.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: This autoimmune disorder is caused by the body attacking the lining of its own joint tissues. Swelling, pain and even joint deformity can occur. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in other parts of the body, leading to a higher risk for lung and heart problems.
- Gout: Caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, gout pain is caused when uric acid crystals are formed in a joint. Gout attacks usually occur suddenly and with intense pain. The most common site is the joint connecting the big toe and foot, but ankles, knees, hands and wrists can also be affected.
5 Remedies for Arthritis Pain in Hands
Unlike in knees and hips, surgery is usually not an option for arthritis in hand joints. But you can learn how to treat arthritis pain in hands to feel more in control of this potentially disabling condition.
1. Hand Exercises
Hand exercises offer up a cost-free way to reduce arthritis pain, and you can do them anywhere or anytime. These exercises keep your hands flexible, improve range of motion, and increase the production of fluid to help lubricate joints.
You’ll need to get in a routine to really see results. So it’s helpful to set an alarm or establish a certain time of day to run through these exercises. Here are just a few of the many movements you can try:
- Make a Fist: This easy exercise involves the basic movement of making a fist and then releasing it. Repeat ten times, going through the motion slowly and steadily. Don’t tightly clench or squeeze your hand.
- Finger Bends: Begin with your hand in an outstretched position and bend each finger in towards your palm one at a time.
- Finger Lifts: Place your palm flat on a table or hard surface, and slowly raise each finger in the air one at a time.
- “O” bends: hold your hand with fingers pointing up, and slowly bend fingers and thumb together to make an O shape, releasing after a few seconds.
2. Hot & Cold Treatments
Treating your hands with hot or cold therapy can ease mild arthritis pain throughout the day. Applying heat promotes circulation, and lessens stiffness in joints. Alternatively, cold decreases circulation, numbs pain and reduces swelling.
Commercial hot and cold packs are easy for soothing hands, but DIY methods like frozen vegetables or a warm water bath can also do the trick. As a general rule, don’t use a hot or cold treatment for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. Avoid temperature extremes that cause pain, dark red spots, or blisters on your skin.
As helpful as exercise can be at improving the arthritis pain in your hands, sometimes rest is the best treatment. If you have a job that includes typing or other repetitive hand movements, take a break every 2-3 hours.
Arthritic pain in a specific area of the hand like your thumb or wrist can make it difficult to do everyday tasks. Once pain hits, wearing a splint designed to support your problem joints can keep you mobile throughout the day.
Don’t wear a splint for too long. This can cause muscle atrophy and decrease range of motion. Talk to your doctor about how often to wear a splint, and don’t wear one when you aren’t in pain.
5. Prescription Medication
When these remedies aren’t enough to manage arthritis pain in hands, your doctor may recommend a prescription drug like Celebrex.
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DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.