Your hands are involved in almost every activity that you do and degenerative arthritis is highly likely to impact you at some time in your life. Everything you do, during your waking hours, involves the use of your hands. There are very few jobs that do not require strength and/or dexterity in the hands, whether it be a surgeon or a bricklayer.
Everyday jobs in the house, such as cooking, cleaning and particularly D-I-Y, can be a real concern if you have pain and stiffness in your hands. If your grip is weak or insecure, there is definite danger in the kitchen, with hot liquids and heavy utensils.
INFLAMMATION: is defined as a localized reaction of tissue to injury, infection or irritation,and that is the cause of the pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints. Inflammation symptoms certainly include pain and stiffness and may also show redness and swelling and, in some serious cases, distortion of the joint We commonly think of inflammation as the painful element of arthritis.
TREATMENT: is designed to relieve pain and restore function. Anti-inflammatory or other analgesic medication, with or without food supplements, such as glucosamine and/or chondroitin, may be of benefit in relieving pain.
You must take care not to over-use anti-inflammatory drugs. Arthritis sufferers with other medical conditions may find these drugs can have adverse reactions and exacerbate these other conditions, resulting in heart attacks, strokes or intestinal bleeding. An alternative way to get the anti-inflammatory effects is to use a cream or lotion to rub on the joint and therefore avoid ingesting the drug. This is best applied at bedtime. (See comments below on anti-inflammatory foods).
Heat treatment, either in the form of warm wax or paraffin baths, or by heat from a radiant health lamp may provide alleviation from the pain but it won’t cure the condition. It is important to sustain motion in the fingers and use the hand as successfully as possible.
Plunging the hand in hot water, followed by cold water or ice and repeating the process will improve the circulation and bring temporary relief. A cortisone injection can often provide relief of symptoms, but does not cure the arthritis.
Surgery is a last resort, when the pain has become too great or where the stiffness and lack of movement has rendered the hand unusable. Sometimes the surgeon will decide to fuse the joint, by inserting a screw or a plate, which will unfortunately curtail the movement in that joint.
Depending on the patient and the severity of the operation, it can take a long time to recover from this operation. I had this operation on my right wrist and it was six months before I could hit a golf ball.
DIET: You can do a great deal to reduce your arthritis symptoms by eating a sensible diet.
Many foods have strong anti-inflammatory properties, including vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices. Ginger and turmeric are particularly good.
Fish oils, which contain two Omega 3 fatty acids, called EPA and DHA, are vital in keeping us in top form, particularly when it comes to heart and joints. Oily fish, such as sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon are an important part of your diet, to provide Omega 3 oils, or an alternative to fish is cold pressed flax seed oil.
Foods containing a lot of animal fats are best avoided, together with preservatives and sugar. Processed foods and ready meals contain high levels of saturated fats. Processed meats such as lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages contain chemicals such as nitrites that are associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease.
Reduce smoking, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the tissues.
Pay attention to the Body Mass Index (recommended between 20 and 25) as an indication of your optimum body weight.
Minerals, vitamins and antioxidants are vitally important. Vitamin E combined with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids has been shown to reduce the severity of the arthritis and reduce the pain. Fruit and vegetables are a fundamental component of a healthy diet, because they contain a rich supply of antioxidants.
Vitamin D is not present in many foods. It plays a crucial part in helping the body absorb calcium, which is necessary for bone strength and in fighting osteoporosis. So, it’s a good idea to take vitamin D supplements, but an even better idea is expose your skin to sunlight daily (always with caution), in order to force your body to produce more vitamin D.
EXERCISE, however painful and distasteful, is essential if the disease is not to get progressively worse. If you don’t keep your fingers moving, the stiffness and pain will surely get worse. Just going about your daily household tasks will ensure you get some movement but some specific exercises each day will improve flexibility. Just washing your hands in a basin of hot water will help to increase the circulation and reduce the pain.
HOUSEHOLD AIDS: There is a great and varied selection of devices to help you cope more easily in the home.
One small tool removes pills from various pill packs and collects them in the handle.
A key turner has a curved built in handle to fit yale or mortice type door keys, providing extra leverage.
You can buy a tool, with a long handle, which fits over most types of tap and will give you much more leverage with little effort.
Special Pencil and Pen Grips make writing more controllable.
Wearing oedema gloves during the night may bring comfort and relief from the pain. They provide gentle compression which acts to reduce swelling and the pain of arthritis in the wrists and hands.
A handiplug consists of a standard three pin plug base with a looped handle to facilitate removal.
Mounted table scissors can be operated by the pressure of one hand depressing the “T” shaped handle. Once pressure is released, the scissors open automatically.
Most telephone companies supply phones designed especially for customers with weak or stiff fingers and easy-to-operate light switches are also available.