According to the Arthritis Foundation, 46 million Americans live with arthritis or chronic joint symptoms that can limit everyday activities such as dressing, bathing, and cooking.
Many with arthritis aren’t aware of options available to alleviate their symptoms. The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint condition, and rheumatoid arthritis. Everyday activities such as preparing a meal, woodworking, carrying bags, or using your computer can damage your joints over time.
Joint protection techniques may help reduce pain, stress, and inflammation as well as increase your independence in daily activities. Here are some simple, inexpensive tips to keep your hands healthy:
Give your Hands a Break
- If you have pain during an activity, stop the activity. Pain is one of the best ways your body has of letting you know that you are causing tissue damage, so listen to and respect your pain.
- If writing is painful, try using a thick, rubber grip pen with gel tip or roller ball to decrease the amount of pressure.
- Remember to stretch and take breaks every 15 minutes during repetitive or prolonged activities such as, painting, sewing, or woodworking.
- Use enlarged grips on equipment like potato peelers, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, or gardening tools to reduce strain on your joints.
- Keep scissors and knives sharp to minimize effort.
- Use two hands when lifting objects. Even lifting a gallon of milk can place excessive stress on your joints.
Don’t Use your Hand as a Tool
- Use a letter opener for opening your mail.
- Don’t rip open sealed bags – use scissors.
- Use a staple remover instead of your fingers and thumb.
- Google “adaptive equipment” to see what products might be useful to relieve hand stress.
When Symptoms Become Severe
If you’ve exhausted these techniques and continue experiencing symptoms, it might be time to see a hand and wrist specialist for an accurate diagnosis with treatment options. Treatment may consist of conservative hand therapy, strengthening, splinting, or nonopioid medication. For severe stiffness, an injection may relieve pain and improve mobility. If conservative measures are not successful, surgery may be an option. Joint replacement or joint fusion surgery has been consistently successful for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Gregory Farino, MD is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon with a specialty in Hand & Wrist Reconstruction, offering non-surgical treatment as well as the latest surgical developments and techniques. Dr Farino treats patients in all three locations of Sarasota Orthopedic Associates, the #1 choice for orthopedic care in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.