Exercises That Help Relieve Arthritis In The Fingers And Hands
If someone is pain free, it is critical to keep joints in good range of motion. Simple shoulder shrugs, wrist, and finger range of motion exercises help keep joint range of motion, says physical therapist Charles J. Gulas, PT, PhD, GCS, dean of the School of Health Professions at Maryville University of St. Louis. Being pain free is the key, Gulas stresses, especially when doing exercises intended to build strength. When pain acts up, rest and pain management may be a better bet.
Try these range-of-motion exercises to keep your hands, fingers, and thumbs flexible and to ease symptoms of arthritis in the fingers and in the hands overall:
- Close your fist and then gradually open your hand, stretching your fingers out, then close slowly into a fist again.
- Make circle motions with your thumb, keeping it straight.
- Stretch your thumb away from the palm of your hand, then use it to touch each fingertip.
Repeat these exercises 3 to 10 times daily. Stop if you feel pain in a joint or if you’re experiencing additional pain once youre done. Some people find that doing these hand exercises under warm water is helpful. If you have osteoarthritis, you may need to wear a splint, wear a compression glove, or use another type of support to help reduce wear and tear on your joints during your daily activities. Ask your doctor or a physical therapist to recommend the type of device that may help you.
Finger And Thumb Joints
Fingers have three joints: the joint where the finger connects to the hand, called the metacarpophalangeal joint the middle joint, called the proximal interphalangeal joint and the joint closest to the end of the finger, the distal interphalangeal joint. The joint at the base of the thumb is the carpometacarpal joint.
What You Can Do
Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have arthritis in your hands. Dont put it off. “We have drugs that very effectively treat these diseases,” Dr. Sparks says. “The earlier arthritis is treated, the more likely its a milder course. In the case of RA, we can prevent deformities, slow disease, and avoid other complications.”
Unfortunately, we dont have drugs to halt or slow osteoarthritis. Treatment involves controlling symptoms and improving function. “We often recommend taking oral painkillers such as acetaminophen , using topical painkillers such as diclofenac , using heat or cold therapy, and strengthening your hands,” Dr. Sparks says.
For any type of arthritis, you might benefit from wearing a splint or brace, using assistive devices that can help you with daily activities, and working with a certified hand therapist who can tailor therapy to your condition and develop work-arounds for the activities you now find challenging.
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Recognizing Symptoms Of Arthritis In The Hands
Women are more likely than men to have arthritis in their hands, and often people experience arthritis symptoms in their hands before other signs of arthritis show up. Different forms of arthritis affect the hands in different ways. For example, psoriatic arthritis, a type of arthritis related to the skin condition psoriasis, is most likely to cause pain in the joints closest to the fingernails , while in osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, cartilage can wear down in all the joints in the fingers and thumb. Symptoms of arthritis in the hands may include:
- Pain in some or all of the joints, including joints of the fingers, wrists, and thumbs
- The growth of bony knobs on finger joints
- Numbness in fingers
- Swollen, red, or warm joints
- Stiffness in the fingers, especially in the morning in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis
- Growth of lumps, or nodules, under the skin of the hands in patients with rheumatoid arthritis
- Fingers that look like swollen sausages in patients with psoriatic arthritis
- Difficulty with motions that require gripping and twisting, such as opening jars
The progression of arthritis in the hands can actually be measured. People with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis lose bone density, which can be measured with bone-density scanning, while the joint damage of osteoarthritis can usually be seen on X-rays.
Inflammatory Arthritis Vs Osteoarthritis: Causes And Symptoms
Arthritis actually describes over 100 different conditions that affect joints and the surrounding tissue. They fall into two main categories: inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis .
Inflammatory arthritis is a systemic disease in which the mechanisms that normally protect your body attack your own joints and tissues instead. The most well-known example is rheumatoid arthritis its hallmark symptom is prolonged stiffness and achiness in the morning after waking up. RA also tends to be symmetrical, meaning youll have problems in the same joints on both sides of your body, like both wrists or both knees.
The second type of arthritis and the most common form is osteoarthritis. A degenerative disorder, its caused by trauma or age-related wear and tear on your joints over time. Osteoarthritis is most likely to affect weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hip, lower spine or big toe, but it can also cause pain and stiffness in your thumb or finger joints.
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These Tips Can Make It Easier To Live With Hand Arthritis
The pain of hand arthritis is often worse when youre pinching or gripping. But those motions are a vital part of many everyday activities. An occupational therapist can teach you ways to modifying the way you do them. You may also want to:
- Add grips to pens and pencils to make them easier to hold
- Record your voice instead of typing
- Swap a ball mouse for your trackpad for computer work
- Use pots and pans with two handles, so they are easier to carry
- Choose dishwasher-safe dishes over those you have to wash by hand
- Replace household items like scissors, nail clippers and knives with versions designed for people with arthritis
- Request prescription medication without child-safe caps, as long as there are not young children living in your house
- Choose clothing that doesnt have buttons or zippers
- Use pump containers instead of squeeze bottles for shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap and other products
Sometimes, it can help to wear a compression device or a splint to minimize movement in the joint. An orthopedic therapist can make recommendations and ensure that youre fitted properly, Dr. Panico said.
And pay attention to the time of day when you notice symptoms. Typically, the joints are less stiff early in the day, so planning your fine-motor tasks for then can help decrease discomfort, Dr. Panico said. If you take medication for joint pain, youll get maximum relief within one to four hours, so time your activities for then.
What Are Hand Psoriasis Treatments
You probably already know that psoriasis on the hands can be challenging to treat. While that can feel a little disheartening, know that there are still lots of options to try.
There are some treatments, such as certain topical creams or ointments, that can help with both psoriasis and eczema, Dr. Rosmarin says. The immune system is too active in the skin, so we have medicines that can tell the immune system to calm down.
Typically, the first-line treatment for psoriasis plaques on the hands is topical corticosteroids, which come in the form of anti-inflammatory creams, ointments, or gels. Sometimes, a doctor may recommend applying this with occlusionthis means wearing gloves or wrapping the hands, ideally to allow the medication to better penetrate. Other times, your dermatologist will recommend combining this medication with calcipotriene, an ointment that helps to slow skin cell growth.
Another topical application is acitretin. Its a form of vitamin A that can take three to six months of steady application to see results.
Unfortunately, psoriasis plaques can sometimes be so thick that its difficult for the topical medications to fully penetrate the skin. When this is the case, you may need to turn to the second-line treatments. These usually involve systemic treatments or light therapy.
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How Doctors Diagnose Arthritis Hand Pain
To determine whats behind your hand pain, your doctor will rely on your medical history, a physical exam, and imaging and blood tests to make a diagnosis and determine what kind of arthritis hand pain you have.
Feeling a patients joints during the exam can help differentiate between OA and inflammatory arthritis, Dr. Byram says. The swelling feels harder in those with OA because extra bone at the joints, called osteophytes, forms over time. The swelling in RA and other inflammatory disease feels softer.
Imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, can reveal joint erosion and osteophytes and loss of cartilage .
If your doctor suspects inflammatory arthritis, they will also order blood tests to detect the presence of certain antibodies, such as rheumatoid factor or anti-CCP, that help identify RA and other types of inflammatory arthritis.
Lumpy Bumpy Swollen Or Red The Signs Are Similar But They Indicate Different Types Of Arthritis Conditions
What happened to your thumb or fingers? Those versatile tools that always enabled you to skillfully button a shirt, open a jar, or tap out your thoughts on a keyboard are now stiff, hurting, and even changing shape.
Arthritis is most likely the problem, and its effects can compromise your independence. “The American College of Rheumatology has a campaign on how arthritis and other rheumatic conditions affect lives, and the symbol is a fork with twisted tines. That sums it up. Using a fork or doing any simple task can become difficult, whether its using your cellphone, typing, grooming, cooking, or eating,” says Dr. Jeffrey Sparks, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a rheumatologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Womens Hospital.
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Early Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms
Like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition. That means instead of protecting your body from disease, the immune system turns against your body and attacks itself.
In addition to painful, swollen joints, the condition can cause rashes, eye redness and pain, and changes to the nails. Some people can get swelling of the whole finger or toe, which doctors refer to as sausage-like. This may help distinguish this condition from other types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis Of The Hand
Osteoarthritis often affects three main areas of your hand:
- the base of your thumb
- the joints closest to your fingertips
- the middle joints of your fingers
Your fingers may become stiff, painful and swollen and you may develop bumps on your finger joints. Over time, the pain may decrease and eventually disappear altogether, although the bumps and swelling can remain.
Your fingers may bend sideways slightly at your affected joints or you may develop painful cysts on the backs of your fingers.
In some cases, you may also develop a bump at the base of your thumb where it joins your wrist. This can be painful and you may find it difficult to perform some manual tasks, such as writing, opening jars or turning keys.
Page last reviewed: 19 August 2019 Next review due: 19 August 2022
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Healing Arthritis In Hands And Getting Back To Normal
Once you know what is causing your hand arthritis symptoms, you can start moving on getting rid of that arthritis in hands and fingers.
The arthritis hand pain mechanism is 100% reversible.
Having said that, if a certain amount of damage has been done, even with the arthritis mechanism removed, some or all of that damage may be irreversible .
And, mostly in the case of RA, once the bony structures of the joints change shape as the auto-immune process causes them to become deformed, there is no UN-deforming the bone.Bone shape changes are permanent.
So ideally you completely reverse your arthritis issue BEFORE you develop too much joint damage and/or your finger joints deform and change shape.
Inflammatory Arthritis Vs Osteoarthritis
Arthritis actually describes over 100 different conditions that affect joints and the surrounding tissue. They fall into two main categories: inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis .
Inflammatory arthritis is a systemic disease in which the mechanisms that normally protect your body attack your own joints and tissues instead. The most well-known example is rheumatoid arthritis , which tends to be symmetrical, meaning youll have problems in the same joints on both sides of your body, like both wrists or both knees.
The second type of arthritis and the most common form is osteoarthritis. A degenerative disorder, its caused by trauma or age-related wear and tear on your joints over time. OA is most likely to affect weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hip, lower spine or big toe, but it can also cause pain and stiffness in your thumb or finger joints.
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Symptoms Of Arthritis In Hands And Fingers
While not everyone with arthritis in the joints in hands will experience all of these symptoms and some people may not even have anysymptoms at all, below are some common symptoms for hand arthritis:
- Joint pain. This is initially experienced as a dull, burning sensation after a particularly busy day. As arthritisadvances, the pain becomes sharper and more constant, even occurring at rest.
- Joint stiffness. This is common in the morning but also occurs after a long day of work or activity involving the hands
- Crepitus. This is a grinding, grating feeling or a crunchy sound in the hands or wrists on movement.
- Weakness. It can begin to get difficult to grasp an object or maintain a strong grip or pinch.
- Warmth or redness. It is common to feel warmth or redness where the joint, ligaments or tissues have become inflamed.
- Swelling. Swollen joints in fingers, hands and thumbs are very common and can lead to a puffier appearance.
- Loss of movement. Particularly as arthritis progresses, you may notice loss of movement in the affected joints.
- Joint shape. You may notice changes in joint shape, or a slight turn in the direction of a finger or thumb.This is usually caused by uneven wearing of cartilage or weakness surrounding tissues or ligaments.
- Knobbly or crooked fingers. Bone spurs can give a knobbly or crooked appearance to fingers and thumbs, and in some casescan also reduce the function of fingers or thumbs.
What Are The Signs Of Arthritis In The Hands
May 19, 2021
Achy, swollen hands? Stiffness in your wrists? Its common to assume these are symptoms of arthritis. While 40 million Americans suffer from arthritis, its far less frequent in the hands than people expect. Instead, what many mistake for arthritis is actually tendonitis. Let’s look at the difference between arthritis and other conditions, risk factors and treatments.
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Weight Management And Diet
Although the link between your weight and osteoarthritis of the hands may be less clear than for weight-bearing joints such as the knees, some research shows that being overweight increases inflammation and therefore pain. Therefore, if you have osteoarthritis of the hand or wrist, it still makes sense to try to maintain, or achieve, a healthy weight.
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Arthritis And Carpal Tunnel Can Occur Together
People who have arthritis in the hand are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, at any given time, about 10% of people with rheumatoid arthritis also have carpal tunnel syndrome.1Agarwal V, Singh R, Wiclaf, et al. A clinical, electrophysiological, and pathological study of neuropathy in rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Rheumatol 2008 27:8414. As cited in DeQuattro K, Imboden JB. Neurologic Manifestations of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2017 Nov 43:561-571. doi: 10.1016/j.rdc.2017.06.005. Epub 2017 Aug 31. Review. PubMed PMID: 29061242. The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is also associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
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Rheumatoid Arthritis And Hands
Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in smaller joints such as in the hand or wrist. One of the early signs of RA in the hands is aninability to form a complete fist.
It usually occurs in a symmetrical pattern, affecting both hands including the knuckle joints, middle finger joints and wrists. People withlong-standing RA or those diagnosed later in life may notice a deviation of their fingers to the side, away from the thumb.
Surrounding tendons can also become inflamed, affecting the ability to straighten fingers. People with RA are also more susceptible todeveloping carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by pressure on nerves that run through the wrist, with symptoms of numbness, pins andneedles, and pain.
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Arthritis In Hands And Fingers
Our hands are capable of many functions, providing precision for delicate tasks as well as enabling us to complete heavier, physicallydemanding jobs.If youre living with arthritis in your hands, fingers, or thumbs, protecting your joints is so important. The 29 joints in our hands arecommon areas for arthritis, and when these joints become arthritic they can make every day activities very difficult and even painful.
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What Is Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and the hand and wrist joints are among the most commonly affected. A joint is a part of the body where two or more bones meet. The ends of the bones are covered in a smooth and slippery surface, known as cartilage. This allows the bones to move smoothly against each other and protects the joint from stress.
Everyone’s joints go through a cycle of damage and repair, and often the repair process is quite effective. But sometimes it can cause changes in the shape or structure of the joints.
Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in your joints to thin and the surfaces of the joint to become rougher, which means that the joints may not move as smoothly as they should, and they might feel painful and stiff.
You may have firm, knobbly swellings at the finger joints. These are known as Heberden’s nodes or Bouchard’s nodes depending on which joints are affected. They’re caused by the growth of bony spurs called osteophytes.
Osteoarthritis can affect anyone at any age, but it’s more common in women over the age of 50.
Some of the factors that can make you more likely to develop osteoarthritis in your hands include:
- carrying out repetitive tasks over a long period of time.