Arthritis is a leading cause of hand pain. The hands are often the first body parts to show symptoms of the cartilage deterioration that occurs with arthritis. When cartilage can’t cushion joints properly, the joints of fingers and thumbs become inflamed and irritated.
There are several ways to manage the pain, stiffness, and discomfort of arthritic hands. The following are five methods to stay active and pain-free when you have arthritis in the joints of one or both of your hands.
1. Understand the Symptoms of Arthritis in Hands
Symptoms of arthritis make it difficult to perform everyday tasks with your hands. You may have trouble holding a knife, carrying grocery sacks, or turning a key in a lock.
Symptoms of arthritis in the hands can include:
- Painful finger, wrist, or thumb joints
- Bony finger-joint knobs and nodules
- Warm or swollen finger joints
- Redness or stiffness of fingers and thumbs
- Sausage-like appearance of fingers
- Clicking or rubbing of joints
- Inability to bend finger or thumb
Overall hand weakness can also occur with arthritis. You may lose gripping strength or other hand function.
2. Schedule a Complete Arthritis Workup
If you have signs of arthritis in your hands, the symptoms don’t give a positive or accurate diagnosis of arthritis. You must undergo testing to confirm that you have arthritis and to determine the precise type of arthritis you have out of the more than 100 types.
Types of arthritis that commonly affect hands include psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is sometimes focused at the joints closest to the fingertips. Rheumatoid arthritis often occurs on both sides of the body at the same time.
Your doctor will try to pinpoint the type of arthritis (or other disorder) in your hands by performing a complete examination of your forearms, fingers, palms, wrists, and thumbs. Other tests you may undergo to diagnose your arthritis include:
- Blood tests
- Joint-fluid test
- Range-of-motion tests
- Genetic tests
You may never get an exact diagnosis of an arthritis type if your symptoms come and go with the seasons or with certain activities. However, your doctor can treat the symptoms of your hand pain by addressing the side effects of the arthritis.
3. Eat a Diet That Doesn’t Increase Inflammation
Some foods cause inflammation of your joints and some foods don’t. When you have arthritis in your hands, choose to eat and enjoy the foods that don’t.
Experts recommend that you eat a well-balanced diet of lean meats, fruits, veggies, and whole grains to reduce inflammation from foods. Avoid sweet, sugary, and over-processed foods. Avoid fried foods and foods made with fatty oils.
Fish and fish oil are recommended as wholesome ingredients and supplements to reduce joint tenderness. However, talk with your doctor before using fish oil, since high doses of fish oil can interfere with some medications.
Add extra-virgin olive oil and more fiber to your diet for more healthy meal ingredients. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of supplemental vitamin D for arthritis relief. A dietitian or your doctor can help you develop daily meal plans that reduce inflammation and promote optimum health.
4. Exercise Your Hands Whenever You Can
Your doctor can help you manage your hand pain with medications and other treatments. However, exercising your hands is the key to retaining mobility in your fingers, wrists, and thumbs. When you have your hand pain under control, spend some time each day performing hand exercises.
Some helpful hand exercises include:
- Making a fist and relaxing the fingers
- Stretching each finger individually
- Making an O-shape with your hand
- Extending and stretching your wrist
- Making a circular motion with the thumb
A simple hand-strengthening exercise is to place the hand palm down on a table or desk. Spread the fingers slightly. One at a time, raise the thumb and each finger up from the table while the rest of the hand remains flat on the table or desk surface.
These range-of-motion exercises should be done gently and never forced. The exercises can help loosen stiff joints and strengthen weak hand muscles.
5. Consider Unique Treatment Options for Arthritis
Your doctor offers treatment options for arthritis that include pain relief and special splints to help support the hand. Medical pain relievers, medically-prescribed cannabis, and hand splints are non-invasive treatments that offer relief to some patients with arthritis. Physical therapy is another option for more intensive hand exercises and rehabilitation.
Another noninvasive therapy for painful conditions like arthritis is called neurostimulation. During a neurostimulation session, electrical impulses are directed at the source of your pain, blocking pain signals from reaching your brain.
When all else fails, invasive treatments may be offered as solutions to hand pain from arthritis. Invasive therapies for arthritis include injections and surgery.
If you’re seeking help with hand pain in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, or Punta Gorda, Florida, contact Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates today. We offer a range of treatments and therapies for patients with arthritis.