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Managing Hand Pain from Arthritis

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Hand arthritis is a prevalent condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It predominantly occurs in individuals over the age of 40 and is more common in women than men. Hand arthritis causes pain, stiffness, and swelling, which can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. The condition can also make it difficult for people to perform routine tasks, like opening jars or holding a pen. When compared to other forms of arthritis, hand arthritis is unique in its symptoms and overall impact on the hand's functionality.

Understanding Hand Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. When arthritis affects the hands, it can significantly impede daily activities. Hand arthritis is a common condition that affects adults of all ages, but it is more common in women than men.

There are two major types of hand arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type and affects the cartilage in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the lining of the joints.

Anyone can get hand arthritis, but certain factors may increase the risk of developing the condition. Age is a significant risk factor, as the likelihood of developing arthritis increases as one grows older. Injuries, genetics, obesity, and repetitive hand motions can also contribute to the development of hand arthritis.

The development of hand arthritis occurs when the cartilage surrounding the joints wears down, causing the bones to rub against each other. As this continues, inflammation and additional damage can occur, leading to more pain and stiffness. It is essential to recognize the early signs of hand arthritis to get an accurate diagnosis and start proper treatment.

Common symptoms of hand arthritis include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Individuals may also experience weakness in their grip, as well as difficulty performing simple tasks, such as opening jars or turning doorknobs. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is imperative to seek help from your healthcare provider.

Treating Hand Arthritis Naturally

Living with hand arthritis can be a painful experience that affects the quality of life. But did you know that there are natural remedies you can try to manage the pain? Here are some natural remedies that can help alleviate hand arthritis pain:

Eating a balanced diet that is rich in nutrients can help manage hand arthritis. Incorporate foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats like olive oil. Avoid processed and sugary foods known to trigger inflammation.

Regular exercise can help alleviate pain from hand arthritis. It can help improve joint flexibility, strengthen muscles, and increase blood flow. Incorporate low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or yoga into your daily routine.

Rest and Relaxation Techniques
Rest is essential for healing and managing hand arthritis pain. Take frequent breaks throughout the day and alternate activities to avoid overworking the joint. Also, try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or warm baths to help relieve stress and tension in your joints.

Use Natural Remedies with Traditional Treatments
Natural remedies can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments like medication or therapy. For example, use a hot or cold compress on sore joints in addition to taking prescribed medication. However, make sure to consult with a healthcare professional before adding any natural remedies into your treatment plan.

Traditional Treatments for Hand Arthritis

When it comes to managing hand arthritis, traditional treatments such as medication and therapy can be quite effective. While natural remedies can certainly help with pain management, more severe cases of hand arthritis require a combination of natural remedies and traditional treatments.

Medication is an important treatment option for hand arthritis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to alleviate inflammation and pain. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen are available over-the-counter, while stronger medications require a prescription. Additionally, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can be used to slow the progression of joint damage. Corticosteroids can also be used to reduce inflammation in the hand joints.

Physical therapy is another popular treatment option for hand arthritis. Physical therapists use exercises to strengthen the hand and wrist, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. Range-of-motion exercises help increase hand and wrist movement, while resistance exercises help build strength. Therapists can also use other techniques like heat and ice therapy and ultrasound to reduce pain and swelling.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended for hand arthritis. For example, patients with severe joint damage or chronic inflammation may benefit from surgical procedures that replace or remove the joint. Joint replacement surgery for hands is similar to joint replacement surgery for hips or knees. It involves removing the damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial joint made of plastic, metal, or ceramic.

Tools and Devices for Hand Arthritis

Hand arthritis can cause severe pain and discomfort, making it difficult to carry out regular activities. While there are various natural remedies and traditional treatments available, assistive devices can also help alleviate hand arthritis pain. Here are some tools and devices that people with hand arthritis can use:

  • Grip and finger-strengthening tools: These devices can be used to help improve hand strength and reduce pain. They work by squeezing or stretching fingers and hands. Examples include hand grippers and finger exercisers.
  • Adaptive utensils: These utensils are designed to make it easier for people with hand arthritis to perform daily activities such as eating. They usually have larger, soft-grip handles that require less force to hold and use.
  • Electric can openers: Manual can openers can be difficult to use for people with hand arthritis. An electric can opener can easily open cans without requiring much hand strength or dexterity.
  • Reachers: Reachers can help people with hand arthritis reach for objects that are further away without stretching or bending. They can also be used to pick up items off the ground.
  • Padded gloves: Padded gloves provide extra support to the hands and can reduce pain caused by hand arthritis. They are made with special materials that can help ease the pressure on the joints.
  • Stabilizing braces: These braces help support and stabilize the joints, keeping them from moving too much and causing pain.

Assistive devices can significantly improve the quality of life for people with hand arthritis. They can help people carry out daily activities with less pain and discomfort. However, it is important to keep in mind the potential drawbacks of these devices. For example, some devices can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance. Additionally, relying too heavily on assistive devices can lead to weakened muscles and further loss of function over time.

It is important to strike a balance between using assistive devices and performing regular exercises to strengthen the hands and fingers. Consultation with a physical therapist can help determine which assistive devices can be most helpful and which exercises can be most effective in pain management.


In conclusion, hand arthritis can be a challenging and painful condition to manage, but there are various natural and traditional treatments that can provide relief. Throughout this article, we have discussed how hand arthritis develops, who is at risk, and the common symptoms associated with the condition. We then delved into natural remedies for arthritis, such as diet and exercise, and traditional treatments such as medication, physical therapy, and surgery.

It can be challenging to manage hand arthritis without support, which is why it's essential to seek help. Following the steps outlined in this article can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with hand arthritis and provide a better quality of life. It's essential to remember the importance of early intervention and to work closely with a healthcare professional to manage the condition effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is hand arthritis?

Hand arthritis is a condition that affects the joints in the hands. It is a type of osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on the joints over time.

2. Who is at risk of developing hand arthritis?

Anyone can develop hand arthritis, but certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing the condition. These include age, genetics, previous joint injuries, and obesity.

3. What are the symptoms of hand arthritis?

The most common symptoms of hand arthritis are pain, stiffness, and swelling in the hands. Other symptoms may include decreased range of motion, weakness, and the development of nodules on the joints.

4. What natural remedies can help manage hand arthritis pain?

There are several natural remedies that may help manage hand arthritis pain, including changes to diet, regular exercise, and relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. Consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment.

5. Are there assistive devices that can help with hand arthritis?

Yes, there are many assistive devices that can help with hand arthritis, such as specialized kitchen utensils and pen grips. Working with an occupational therapist or physical therapist can also provide insights and techniques for managing hand arthritis.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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