On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis may come and go over a period of months and years. You may notice pain, swelling, and stiffness in different joints at different times.
Both types of arthritis can cause pain and stiffness in your hands. Fortunately, there are various options for managing arthritis symptoms in your hands.
They range from simple lifestyle changes to complex surgeries. Your physician will help you decide which options are best for you.
Medications that range from topical skin creams to prescription drugs may be your formula for relief.
- Over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, may relieve pain, and some also help reduce the inflammation that contributes to stiff joints.
- Topical pain medications are available without a prescription. Simply rub the cream or gel onto your skin.
- Steroid injections deliver a high dose of medication directly to the affected area.
- Prescription drugs may be prescribed to manage your arthritis. However, different types of drugs are prescribed for different types of arthritis. Your doctor may prescribe pain medications for OA. There are more treatment options available for RA, including oral steroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologic drugs for patients with severe RA.
2. Hot and Cold Treatments
Hot and cold therapy works by jumpstarting your body’s ability to heal itself. While heat boosts circulation and makes you feel less pain, cold reduces swelling around the joints.
- To relieve pain and stiffness, use a heating pad, paraffin bath or moist towels, applying the heat to your hands for 15 minutes.
- A cold compress, such as an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas, may reduce swelling in joints affected by arthritis.
3. Gadgets and Devices to Make Life Easier
You’re not alone in suffering from arthritis in your hands. Many companies are trying to fill the need for products that will make your life a little easier. Here are some products that may help you.
- Pens and pencils that are larger in circumference or buy foam pads designed to enlarge the grip area.
- Kitchen tools that have larger handles or other features to make them easier to grip if you have symptoms of arthritis in your hands.
- Fasteners such as hook-and-eye or Velcro closures may be a good replacement for buttons on your clothing if you have trouble manipulating them.
- Splints or braces may relieve pain and give your joints some extra support. Ask your doctor about them.
4. Lifestyle Changes to Ease the Pain
Sometimes small changes in your lifestyle can go a long way to reducing pain.
- Avoid using a tight grip when you’re holding or carrying items. For example, put your open palms under a book or tray rather than holding it by the edges.
- Using a keyboard for extended periods may worsen symptoms of arthritis in your hands. Take frequent breaks to stretch and flex your fingers and wrists.
5. Exercises for Increased Flexibility
There are several exercises that can help improve flexibility and ease the stiffness caused by arthritis in the hands.
- Buy a soft foam ball, such as a Nerf ball, and alternate between gently squeezing it and then relaxing your muscles.
- Start with your hand open and your fingers straight but relaxed. Gently move your thumb across your hand and try to touch your palm with it. Repeat, one at a time, with each finger.
- Hold your fingers straight and your palm flat. Keeping your knuckles straight, slowly bend the middle and end joints of your fingers, and then straighten them out again.
- Begin with your hand open and relaxed. Move your forefinger and thumb until the tips touch each other, forming a loose O shape. Repeat with each finger.
- Ask your doctor whether physical therapy is an option for you. In many cases, your healthcare insurance will pay for at least part of the cost.
Consider the benefits of surgery if your doctor recommends it. It can decrease pain and increase motion, however, you’ll have to weigh the risks versus the benefits. Here are some of the major types of surgery for arthritis in the hands:
- Tendon release or repair may reduce pain caused by tendons that cause the fingers to bend abnormally.
- Joint replacement surgery removes the joint entirely and replaces it with an artificial one made of metal or plastic.
- Arthrodesis consists of removing the joint, but instead of replacing it, your surgeon permanently fuses the two bones together. This procedure severely restricts movement, but it may be useful in relieving pain when other options fail.
Talk to your doctor about the best methods for managing symptoms of arthritis in your hands. Sometimes a few simple changes can provide sufficient relief, but know that other options exist if your pain persists or increases.