Living with Arthritis: Tips & Tricks for Healthy Hands - Athletico (2022)

Arthritis in the hands can limit everyday activities, but it doesn’t have to! Most Americans are not aware that there are other options to alleviate symptoms, or ways to adapt activities, to continue work, self-care and leisure activities. In this blog our Hand Therapy experts will discuss strategies, tools and splints that can keep your hands healthy and assist in daily activities.

The Importance of Joint Protection

The first principles that should be introduced for living with arthritic hands are joint protection techniques. These techniques and modifications can be tailored to fit one’s lifestyle and hobbies. The general principles are as follows:

(Video) Arthritis Of The Fingers - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

  • Respect pain.
    Pain is the body’s way of letting you know that you are causing tissue damage. Avoid activities that cause immediate pain, pain that lingers for several hours or causes pain in the next 12-24 hours. Modify or eliminate tasks that are causing aggravation. Ask for help or hire out help for jobs that are likely to cause discomfort.
  • Use larger and stronger joints for tasks.
    Protect the small joints in the hands and use the larger and stronger joints in the arm, if possible. Some examples of this include using two hands to lift heavy objects like a gallon of milk. Use a forearm or shoulder to push open a door, rather than pushing a door open with your fingers. Use this technique when carrying groceries. Instead of supporting a bag’s weight on the fingers, carry the bag close to your body supporting the bag with the hips and arms. Better yet, use a small wheeled cart to carry large loads and to avoid multiple trips.
  • Be sure to move.
    Remember to avoid staying in one position too long, as this can cause stiffness, especially if it is a position that could lead to further joint damage. Stop to take breaks and stretch every 15-20 minutes when performing repetitive pinching or grasping activities such as needlework, knitting or crocheting, painting, sewing our using hand tools. These types of activities can lead to tightening of the muscle in the hands and stress the joints of the fingers.
  • Avoid unnecessary labor or tasks when possible.
    Consider using prepared foods, frozen vegetable mixes as recipe starters for meals and use pre-cut vegetables to save time and strain on joints. A food processor can save your hands from unnecessary wear and tear and save time when chopping food. Instead of lifting heavy pots, slide them on the counter rather than picking them up to safe effort. Also, carry a backpack, instead of holding a purse or handbag.
  • Avoid tight or prolonged grasp and grip of small objects.
    Tools, utensils, pens and toothbrushes can all be modified with enlarged handles to help avoid tight grips. In addition, many kitchen gadgets and gardening tools are available with enlarged, soft rubberized handles that are easier to hold on to, decreasing stress on the joints of the hands. There are lots of adaptive aides available for opening jars, turning door knobs, turning keys, and to assist with zipping and fastening clothing. If you can’t find these at a big box store, consider searching your favorite online retailers. Go to your favorite web browser and search, “tools for arthritic hands,” or “gadgets for people with hand arthritis.”

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The second set of tips involves avoiding using your hands as a tool. While some mammals have sharp claws for defending, others like moles have an extra bone to aide in tunneling, and other mammals have hooves and fins to aide them in traveling their terrain. As humans, our thumbs allow us to hold tools, rather than to be used as tools. There’s no need to put unnecessary stress on our hands if there’s a tool available to lighten the load. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use your hand as a hammer. Use a rubber mallet or hammer itself around the house for odd jobs and use a meat mallet in the kitchen, as needed. Avoid using your hand to flatten or pound an object as it can cause unnecessary force over the carpal tunnel and even rupture blood vessels in the hand.
  • Avoid tearing opening mail and packages with your hands and finger. This stresses your fingers and puts you at risk for paper cuts. Instead use a mail opener, utility knife or scissors to make light of the job.
  • Use a staple remover instead of fingers and thumbs. This will save a manicure too!
  • Use utility scissors in the kitchen to open food packages and bags, which will avoid tight pinching and tension on the finger joints.
  • When tight sustained pinching is required, consider the use of a pliers to decrease pressure on the joints of the hands.
  • Keep scissor and knives sharp to minimize effort. Consider a self-opening scissors, which automatically opens back up, saving your finger joints.
  • Using an electric or battery-powered can opener can save the hands from repeated stress.
  • If prolonged holding is required when reading or playing cards, consider using a book stand or holder to bring the book to eye level. Use a “chip clip” to avoid prolonged gripping or pinching of cards.
  • Use pump shampoos, conditioners, and toothpaste to avoid excessive forces required to squeeze tubes and bottles. Use the palm of your hand to pump, instead of squeezing containers to avoid excessive forces.

First Aide Basics for Arthritic Hands

Should you end up overusing your hands, consider some first aide basics. Using heat can help to decreased soreness and loosen stiff joints, especially in the morning. This could be applied in the form of heat packs or a warm bath or shower. Remember to avoid using heat after an acute injury (such as a fracture, sprain or strain) or during an inflammatory state. Cold packs or cold water soaks are great for pain relief or swelling during a “flare up” or after overuse. However, their use may cause increased stiffness, especially in the winter months or in cooler climates.

(Video) Hand Arthritis Stretches & Exercises - Ask Doctor Jo

Seek the Help of a Hand Therapist

If you continue to have symptoms after trying some of these techniques or have further questions, consider hand therapy as a treatment option. Hand therapists at Athletico have specialized training in the treatment of arthritic conditions and injuries of the hands and upper extremities. Our hand therapists can tailor equipment, design and fabricate or suggest orthotics and splints, and recommend modifications that would be beneficial for your specific conditions, to allow you to participate in your daily activities.

Find a Hand Therapist Near You

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Sources:
Kurtz, Paige E. “52.” Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation: a Practical Guide, by Rebecca J. Saunders et al., Elsevier, 2016, pp. 649–657.
The Hand Owner’s Manual: a Hand Surgeon’s Thirty-Year Collection of Important Information and Fascinating Facts, by Roy A. Meals, Virtualbookworm.com Pub., 2008, pp. 2–3.
“Getting the Upper Hand with Arthritis: Hand Care Tips.” ASHT, ASHT, 2005, www.asht.org/sites/default/files/ArthritisArticle%200516.doc.
“Living with Arthritis.” Aota.org, 2012, www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Patients-Clients/Adults/Arthritis.aspx.
“Joint Protection Techniques for Hand/Finger Arthritis.’ NHS King’s College Hospital, Mar. 2019.” NHS.UK, NHS King’s College Hospital, Mar. 2019, www.kch.nhs.uk/Doc/pl%20-%20840.1%20-%20joint%20protection%20techniques%20for%20hand/finger%20arthritis.pdf.

(Video) Looking after your hands with Osteoarthritis

About the Author:
Shelia Tenny is an Occupational Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist. She is passionate about helping those with hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder pain, including arthritis, sprains, strains, fractures, tendon, and nerve injuries. Sheila has certifications in ergonomic assessments in the workplace and ASTYM, which uses specialized handheld tools to manipulate soft tissue to facilitate healing and tissue regeneration.

Arthritis in the hands can limit everyday activities, but it doesn’t have to! Most Americans are not aware that there are other options to alleviate

In this blog our Hand Therapy experts will discuss strategies, tools and splints that can keep your hands healthy and assist in daily activities.. Protect the small joints in the hands and use the larger and stronger joints in the arm, if possible.. In addition, many kitchen gadgets and gardening tools are available with enlarged, soft rubberized handles that are easier to hold on to, decreasing stress on the joints of the hands.. Go to your favorite web browser and search, “tools for arthritic hands,” or “gadgets for people with hand arthritis.”. Avoid using your hand to flatten or pound an object as it can cause unnecessary force over the carpal tunnel and even rupture blood vessels in the hand.. Avoid tearing opening mail and packages with your hands and finger.. Hand therapists at Athletico have specialized training in the treatment of arthritic conditions and injuries of the hands and upper extremities.. “Getting the Upper Hand with Arthritis: Hand Care Tips.” ASHT, ASHT, 2005, www.asht.org/sites/default/files/ArthritisArticle%200516.doc.

Peter Kotsiras is a nationally certified Remedial Massage Therapist who gained accreditation from the Australian School of Therapeutic Massage.

The first principles that should be introduced for living with arthritic hands are joint protection techniques.. These types of activities can lead to tightening of the muscle in the hands and stress the joints of the fingers.. Avoid tight or prolonged grasp and grip of small objects.. Go to your favorite web browser and search, “tools for arthritic hands,” or “gadgets for people with hand arthritis.”. As humans, our thumbs allow us to hold tools, rather than to be used as tools.. There’s no need to put unnecessary stress on our hands if there’s a tool available to lighten the load.. Use utility scissors in the kitchen to open food packages and bags, which will avoid tight pinching and tension on the finger joints.. Using heat can help to decreased soreness and loosen stiff joints, especially in the morning.. “Joint Protection Techniques for Hand/Finger Arthritis.’ NHS King’s College Hospital, Mar.

Arthritis is a common condition of the joints, which leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation due to changing joint surfaces. According to the

April 9, 2021 7:30 amby Shelia M. Tenny, OTR/L, CHTArthritis is a common condition of the joints, which leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation due to changing joint surfaces.. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).. In a person with RA, the immune system mistakes some of the body’s healthy cells as invaders and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack the healthy synovium, or the lubricant-like fluid that assists in movement of the joints.. RA commonly affects the hands, knees and ankles and typically occurs in the same joint on both sides of the body.. Besides joint pain, other signs of RA include fever, fatigue or tiredness and weakness.. RA can begin at any age, but the tendency to develop RA increases with age, with typical onset being adults in their 60s.. While medications are the first line of defense for those suffering from RA, it’s important to note that both RA and OA can lead to deformities of the fingers at each joint.. Persons with RA or OA can both benefit from many of the same strategies to manage symptoms:. Increase physical activity Although it may seem counter intuitive, increasing activity can decrease symptoms of joint pain.. Increased activity can facilitate weight loss, thus decreasing stress especially in the weight bearing joints in the legs.. Stop smoking and maintain a healthy weight Cigarette smoking and obesity can cause other medical problems and make it more difficult to stay physically active, thus making OA and RA symptoms worse.. Massage can reduce pain, relax muscles, improve circulation to decrease stress, and improve painful symptoms.. The Hand Therapists at Athletico can recommend joint protection techniques and adaptive strategies and devices (orthosis and splints) to allow you to continue to perform activities of daily living and for hobbies or leisure.. Our team can also suggest specialized exercises as part of a home program to protect the joints, decrease stiffness, correct joint instability, and improve the ability to use the hands if living with RA or OA.. “Arthritis Foundation | Symptoms Treatments | Prevention Tips | Pain Relief Advice.” Arthritis Foundation | Symptoms Treatments | Prevention Tips | Pain Relief Advice, http://arthritis.org.

There are many effective treatments that enable you to take control and live a healthier life while slowing down joint deterioration.

Reduce the pain and stiffness cause by arthritis by alternating heat and cold treatments.. If you do not exercise your joints, the joints become fatigued, thus increasing arthritis symptoms.. Acupuncture has been proven to ease arthritis pain.. Acupuncture can reduce the pain you get from arthritis.. Acupuncture has been proven to help alleviate pain caused by arthritis.. Relaxing music is also great way to fall asleep if the pain from arthritis symptoms keep you up at night.. Talk to them about arthritis, the pain, and how it has affected our life.. Stop smoking if you want to reduce the swelling and pain caused by arthritis.. There have been studies that have shown that people who do not smoke have less problems with arthritis related pain and swollen joints than smokers.. To keep your arthritis pain and swelling to a minimum, you should not smoke.. Research has indicated that smokers have more issues with joint swelling and pain related to arthritis than nonsmokers.. These tips are a good starting point to understand the symptoms of arthritis and what you can do about them.

Arthritis may make a lot of things very hard to do. There is a lot of useful information that can make living with arthritis less painful. This article can help you learn how to cope with arthritis on a daily basis.

Avoid uncomfortable shoes or high heels if you have any kind of arthritis.. Your joints can easily become inflamed, so switching between hot and cold packs can soothe pain and reduce swelling.. The act of massaging increases circulation in the area and will work to reduce swelling, while the gentle massage will help with blood flow and pain.. The water can massage and support your body throughout the routine.. Your arthritis flare ups can be unpredictable, so plan ahead to avoid issues.. There are many special tools and devices that can make it easier for those who suffer from the painful symptoms of arthritis.. Apply the tips you learned wherever you can in your life.

Learn more about how having arthritis can affect your driving and get tips and advice to make driving with arthritis more safe and comfortable.

Joint pain and stiffness can make it harder to do basic driving functions like turning your head to look back or check your blind spot, turning the steering wheel quickly, or braking safely.. What can people with arthritis do to be able to continue driving safely and comfortably?. Even with the best preparation and care, there may be times where your arthritis makes it too difficult to drive.. For people with severe arthritis in their feet or legs, having hand controls installed may be a good option for driving with more mobility and less pain, Tatta says.. For people whose pain is mainly in their back or hips, a lumbar support pillow can make a big difference, Ryan says.. Make it easier by using a car key turner tool, Ryan says.. Make sure to remember to exercise the muscles you use for driving, including the ones in your hands and feet, Tatta adds.

Videos

1. Hand Arthritis | Bill's Story
(Johns Hopkins Medicine)
2. Arthritis Advice: Hand Exercises
(Arthritis Society Canada)
3. Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis
(CNN)
4. Rheumatoid Arthritis of the hand - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim
(nabil ebraheim)
5. Treating Basal Thumb Joint Arthritis - Mayo Clinic
(Mayo Clinic)
6. Osteoarthritis Signs & Symptoms (& Why They Occur)
(JJ Medicine)

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