Getting a Handle on Arthritis Pain

From lifting heavy objects to threading a needle, our hands allow us to interact and manipulate our environment in ways big and small. But if the joints of our hands are affected by arthritis, the effect on our ability to complete activities of daily living can be huge.

Cartilage acts as a shock absorber in the joints, making smooth movement possible. All arthritic joints lose cartilage — whether through disease, trauma or overuse. When cartilage is missing, the joint can no longer move freely and painlessly.

If you have pain in your hands from arthritis, gentle exercises such as bending your fingers, making a fist, stretching your fingers and doing fingertip touches can help ease the pain and stiffness. If these exercises are painful, you may want to try doing them in warm water or while in the bath.

Nonsurgical Treatments for Arthritis of the Hand

Anti-inflammatory medications are commonly used to ease the body’s production of chemicals that cause joint swelling and pain. They include over-the-counter drugs as well as prescription medicines. While these may help treat some symptoms, they will not reverse damage or restore lost joint cartilage.

Injections may be given when anti-inflammatory drugs are not appropriate or are ineffective. These usually contain both a steroid to provide pain relief for weeks to months as well as long-acting anesthetic similar to Novocain. Side effects such as infection and a weakening of ligaments and tendons place limits on the number of doses you may receive.

Splints may be used with or without injections to help ease stress on the joint due to movement and normal activities. Wearing a splint too long can cause atrophy, or wasting of the muscles around the joint. Overuse of splinting is discouraged because muscles are important in helping to stabilize injured joints.

If the pain and restricted motion resulting from arthritis of the hand are making it hard for you to do the things you love, speak with your physician at Little Company of Mary.





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