What Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Feel Like
Lets face it, aches and pain are annoying. But thankfully, most of them are occasional and usually occur as we age. But knowing what does arthritis feel like? is important, especially if youre feeling joint pain and stiffness in different body parts. This will help you get timely treatment, as early treatment always has positive outcomes.
Did you know persistent joint pain and stiffness can be signs of rheumatoid arthritis? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , this condition affects more than 54 million adults in the United States. The symptoms of arthritis include aching, grinding, dull, or throbbing pain in joints. Continue reading as this guide will address, What does arthritis feel like? So, lets get started!
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 you’ll 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, it’s 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.
Arthritis Feels Like Always Having Radio Static In The Background
For the longest time I wasnt ever able to explain how the pain from my arthritis felt to my parents but I recently was able to come up with an analogy, says Brandy, 19, of New York City, who has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I told them its a constant pain thats always in the background, like static from a radio or TV thats always on. It never goes away but sometimes its easier to ignore than others. When Im having a rough day and Im in a lot of pain its the worst. Its a sharp stabbing pain in my knee that wont go away.
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Arthritis Feels Like Having The Flu
If youve ever had the flu, then you know how entirely horrible it makes you feel, which makes it the perfect comparison for arthritis, says Christina, 32, from Michigan.
When you have the flu really bad, your whole body is stiff and sore, places you didnt even know you had are aching, and it takes a lot of effort just to get out of bed much less do anything else. The flu sucks all the energy out of you. Well, thats how my ankylosing spondylitis feels when it flares up, she explains. Except it isnt just for a week or two, its for the rest of my life.
Are Glucosamine And Chondroitin Supplements Helpful For Treating Osteoarthritis Of The Hand
Supplements are not reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration . They are not required to undergo the same rigorous clinical trial methods that medications must undergo in the U.S. Some clinical trials show benefits with pain relief however, there is no proof that these supplements slow the progression of osteoarthritis. If you plan to try these, always check with your healthcare provider before using supplements. These products may interfere with medications you currently take.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Dull or burning joint pain, morning stiffness, swollen joints in your hand are all symptoms of arthritis. Many types of arthritis could affect your hands. Many treatment options are available depending on your exact arthritis type. Medications can reduce joint pain and swelling. Researchers are still working on ways to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. See your healthcare provider if you think you have arthritis in your hands. They will perform a complete exam and offer you a complete treatment plan, which includes hand exercises, use of hot and cold packs, other lifestyle tips and traditional treatments including medications, braces/splints, steroid injections and surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/06/2021.
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Hand Osteoarthritis Home Remedies
These home treatments can help:
- Exercises. Your doctor or physical therapist can show you what to do to improve strength and range of motion and to ease pain.
- Assistive devices. Special pens, kitchen utensils, and other tools with big grips may be easier to use.
- Ice or heat. Ice may reduce swelling and pain. Heat, like a warm washcloth or a paraffin bath, can loosen stiff joints.
- Skin treatments. Medicated creams can give relief when you rub them on sore joints. Gels with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also help.
- Supplements. Many people take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for OA. Researchers are still looking into whether they help. Ask your doctor if they’re OK to try.
When To See A Doctor For Hand Pain
It is advisable to schedule an appointment with your doctor for any of the following hand pain symptoms:
- Hand pain accompanied by fever and signs of infection: Especially following a puncture wound
- Inability to move or bend fingers or wrist
- Pain that does not improve over several weeks
Hand pain symptoms can be debilitating and greatly impact your daily life. Several steps can be taken to treat the pain, particularly if you have a known condition like arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
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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.
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.
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What You Can Do
Arthritis is a common condition with many treatment options. Because it worsens over time, it’s best to seek medical care early. Even if you think your hand pain is mild, make an appointment with your doctor. You can perform exercises, wear arthritis gloves, and take medications to manage the symptoms.
Other Causes Of Hand And Finger Symptoms
RA hand symptoms can mimic those of other conditions, such as osteoarthritis. Some members of myRAteam discovered their hand pain was actually related to secondary Raynauds disease, a vascular condition that affects 10 percent to 20 percent of people with RA. Psoriatic arthritis, another autoimmune disease, can also cause hand and finger dysfunction as can pinched nerves in the neck.
A rheumatologist can diagnose the specific cause of symptoms in the hand with a physical exam and X-rays. X-rays can detect narrowing of joint space or erosions of the bone that could signal RA. Ultrasound and MRI technology has improved the ability to spot joint damage earlier in the course of the disease.
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Should I See A Doctor
Its common to have aches and pains in your muscles and joints from time to time. This may especially be true if you take part in unusual or strenuous physical activities.
So, how can you tell the difference between the early signs of arthritis and normal pain and stiffness? And, how do you know when you should see a doctor about your symptoms?
If you have swelling or stiffness that you cant explain and that doesn’t go away in a few days, or if it becomes painful to touch your joints, you should see a doctor. The earlier you get a diagnosis and start the right type of treatment, the better the outcome will be.
Here are some other things to think about that might help you decide whether you need to see a doctor:
What To Expect From Your Doctor
First, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. During your physical exam, your doctor will examine your wrist for swelling, pain, and tenderness. The location of the swelling can tell your doctor which wrist joints are most affected. Problems in the wrist can affect peripheral tendons, causing tendonitis.
Next, your doctor will examine the range of motion of the wrist itself. This can show how mild or severe the arthritis is, or if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Your doctor will ask you to twist and flex both wrists in every direction. Finally, theyll manipulate your wrist and thumb joints and ask if you feel pain.
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Arthritis In The Toes
Arthritis in the toes is often the result of wear and tear of the cartilage in the toe joints or inflammation of the toe joints. The big toe is most often affected by arthritis, but other toes can also be involved.
Common symptoms of arthritis of the toes may include pain that can take hours or days to resolve and swelling and inflammation in and around the toe joints. Both RA and PsA can cause significant pain and swelling. However, with PsA, the toes become so swollen that they can resemble sausages .
Additional symptoms of arthritis in the toes might include:
- Restricted range of motion due to swelling or cartilage damage
- Development of bone spurs, which can further restrict movement
- Difficulty and pain with bending the toes
- A toe that might bend permanently downward
- Pain that worsens with weight-bearing activityrunning, walking, climbing stairs, etc.
- A bump formation or sore
- Pitted, separated, thickened toenails
- Curling of toeshammertoe or claw toe
How Is Arthritis In The Hand Treated
Treatment options depend on the type of arthritis, stage of arthritis, how many joints are affected, your age, activity level, the hand affected and other existing medical conditions.
Goals of treatment are to:
- Improve mobility and function.
- Increase your quality of life.
- In the case of rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, to slow the progression of the disease.
Treatment options include splinting/bracing, medications, injections, non-drug approaches and surgery.
Splits or braces support and protect the affected joint, reduce deformity, provide joint stability, lessen strain, and promote proper joint alignment. Your healthcare provider, occupational therapist or hand therapist will discuss splinting/bracing options, how and when to wear them and how long to wear them .
Steroids reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Steroids are usually used if medications dont control inflammation or if the inflammation is limited to a few joints. Injections are administered directly into the affected joint. Because steroids can weaken tendons and ligaments, injections are repeated only a few times.
Other management strategies
A complete treatment plan for arthritis of the hand includes these additional approaches:
If nonsurgical treatments no longer provide relief and the cartilage at the ends of your bones has worn away, surgery may be an option. There are several approaches:
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What Osteoarthritis Pain Feels Like
Pain is pain, right? It just plain hurts. But for your doctor to figure out whether your joint pain stems from osteoarthritis, which develops as cartilage wears away, youll need to be specific about when the pain occurs, how bad it is, and the ways it’s affecting you.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis that may help you identify and better describe your pain to your doctor:
- Pain that aches deep into the joint
- Pain that feels better with rest
- Pain that isn’t noticeable in the morning but gets worse throughout the day
- Pain that radiates into your buttocks, thighs, or groin
- Joint pain that affects your posture and gait and may cause limping
- Pain that occurs after using the joint
- Swelling in the joint
- Not being able to move the joint as much as usual
- Feeling a sensation of bones grating or catching on something when moving the joint
- Pain during certain activities, like standing from a seated position or using stairs
- Pain that interferes with work, daily activities, and exercise
- Joint stiffness first thing in the morning that improves with time
- Stiffness after resting the joint
How Does Joint Pain In Hands And Fingers Affect Members
The symptoms of RA in hands and fingers significantly disrupt myRAteam members daily lives in many ways. Many members report that this type of arthritis makes it hard to grip, pinch, or squeeze things with their hands. Its frustrating to not be able to turn a doorknob, open jars, or lift heavy cookware, said one member. I need both hands to balance a coffee mug, explained another. I cant hold onto my pills without dropping them, said another.
Loss of hand function can also be dangerous. Members say theyve dropped a cup of coffee or lost control of a pot of hot water. One member said, I was changing the toilet paper roll and, because my hands don’t work, the holder shot out of my hand and popped me in the eye!
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Other Possible Causes Of Hand Pain
Hand pain is also a sign of Dupuytrens contracture, a condition in which the tissue of the palm and fingers becomes thickened and tight, causing the fingers to curl inward. Its not clear why Dupuytrens contracture develops, though those who smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, and have seizures or diabetes are more vulnerable to developing it.
Your doctor will also consider whether your hand pain could be due to carpal tunnel syndrome, says Dr. Byram. RA can be a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, so if we see someone who has carpal tunnel, well want to make sure they dont have RA. Carpal tunnel is a condition that occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand the median nerve is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
What Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain And Discomfort Feels Like
Rheumatoid arthritis can be like the old box of chocolates adage you never know what youre going to get, according to the blogger Katie Singh, 38, of Austin, Texas. Singh was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she 23 years old. Sometimes it feels like burning, other times it feels like throbbing throbbing so bad that you can’t think about anything else, Singh explains. There are times I’ve almost considered wanting to cut off a foot or a hand, the pain is so excruciating.
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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. This causes pain in your joints and different body parts. Primarily, RA impacts the feet and hands. But it can also affect larger joints like elbows and knees. Moreover, it can produce a variety of other symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and joint stiffness.
With that said, now lets see what patients suffering from it say about what rheumatoid arthritis feels like.
Who Gets Arthritis In Their Hands
You are more likely to get arthritis in your hands if:
- Youre older. Osteoarthritis is commonly seen after age 50. Rheumatoid arthritis typically first appears between the age of 35 and 50.
- Youre a woman.
- Youre white.
- Youre overweight.
- Youve had previous injuries to your hand. If youve dislocated or broken any joints in your hands or fingers, you are more likely to develop arthritis.
- You’ve inherited genes that cause the development of arthritis.
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Types Of Finger Arthritis
There are three types of arthritis that commonly affect the fingers:
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis, also called wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most common type of finger arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes normal cartilage to wear away. This exposes bare bone at the joints. The most frequently affected joints in the hand are the knuckles of the mid-finger and fingertip and the joint at the base of the thumb.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis causes a different type of joint destruction. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the whole body. It causes the immune system to attack the soft tissues surrounding the joints. The most commonly affected joints in the hand are the knuckles at the base of the fingers .
- Gout: Gout is a condition that occurs when crystals develop within the joints. These crystals can form in one or more joints when there is too much of a substance called uric acid in the body. While the big toe is the most commonly affected part of the body, gout can also develop in finger joints.
Rarely, other types of arthritis can also cause problems in the fingers.