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How To Prevent Arthritis in Hands
CBD Topical
Chronic Pain
Pain Management

 

How To Prevent Arthritis in Hands

If you work on a computer, play an instrument, cook, move furniture, give massages, or do any one of a hundred other activities that involve your hands, you may eventually notice that your hands get tired and sore.

However, routine soreness sometimes becomes deeper, more painful, and longer lasting. You try to stretch out your fingers and get them moving, but dull, aching pain just won’t go away. This could be a sign that you’re developing arthritis in your hands.

Osteoarthritis, which comes with aging and the long-term use of your hands, affects about 25% of men and 50% of women before the age of 85. This means that even if you don’t develop arthritis when you’re younger, you do have a decent chance of being affected by it at some point in your life.

So, are there ways to prevent this pain, swelling, and difficulty doing everyday tasks? Let’s get into it.

What Is Arthritis?

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Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. There are a variety of reasons and causes for arthritis developing, but the result is pain and tension in places like the shoulders, hips, knees, wrists, ankles, fingers, and toes. Sometimes this is temporary and will go away with rest and some treatment of symptoms, but other times, it can become chronic and go on for a long time without much relief.

Joints are basically any place in the body where two or more bones come together. The joints in our bodies are made up of a collection of cartilage, ligaments, and tendons that hold the bones together — they’re the most important parts of our bodies for movement and mobility.

It’s common for arthritis to take root in the hands because of how often they are used daily for so many different tasks.

What Are the Main Types of Arthritis?

There are many different types of arthritis, but the two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Even though one of these will usually be suspected if you complain to your healthcare provider about painful inflammation in your hands, several other diseases can cause the same type of discomfort.

Let’s look at these two main forms of arthritis and some similar conditions.

Osteoarthritis

This type of arthritis could almost just be called aging because it’s rare to appear before age 50. If it does, this is called early-onset arthritis and can occur if you have certain risk factors and don’t take preventative measures.

Osteoarthritis is characterized by:

  • Pain and discomfort in the affected joint
  • Swelling
  • Less range of motion
  • Stiff feeling
  • Grating sensation in the joint

Osteoarthritis is preventable, or at least it can be less severe if you take some basic measures. Because it’s caused by the natural aging process or just using your joints over a long period of time, there are ways to keep osteoarthritis from progressing.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The major difference between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis is that RA is autoimmune, meaning that it’s caused by the body attacking itself. It is similar to osteoarthritis in that you’re more likely to develop it if you’re older. RA is a degenerative disease, meaning that it doesn’t generally improve over time but tends to get worse.

Common symptoms of RA include:

  • Stiff joints in the morning or joint pain after periods of inactivity
  • Aching and swelling in the joints
  • The same type of pain on both sides of the body (for example, tenderness and swelling in both hands)
  • Fever and fatigue

RA might affect both hands, while other forms of arthritis may just affect the dominant one. Because there isn’t a cure, managing symptoms is crucial to continue being able to do activities and basic household tasks.

What Are Other Types of Arthritis and Similar Conditions?

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In addition to osteoarthritis and RA, several other forms of arthritis and conditions can cause arthritis-like pain. Autoimmune disorders often affect the body’s neurological system, leading to discomfort that can feel a lot like arthritis.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Often occurring in people who already have psoriasis, a skin disease, psoriatic arthritis affects the joints (especially on the hands), causing painful swelling. It can’t be cured, but the symptoms can be managed with medication, steroid injections, or joint replacements in severe cases.

Juvenile Arthritis (JA)

This type of arthritis affects young people, usually under the age of 16. There is still not a lot known about why arthritis develops in young people, but usually, it’s autoimmune and is a result of the body attacking its own joints.

Gout

One particular kind of arthritis that’s associated with sudden, excruciating flare-ups of arthritis pain in joints (most often the big toe) is gout. This condition is caused by the crystallization of uric acid after it builds up in joints. One of the common causes of gout is an overconsumption of raw meat, giving it its classic name, “the disease of kings.”

Septic Arthritis

If you have had surgery or a raw wound on a joint in your body, there’s a possibility of getting septic arthritis and infection that causes inflammation. The area will feel swollen, sore, or like it’s burning. It can be fixed with proper wound care and a course of antibiotics but can cause joint damage if left untreated.

Lupus

A condition like lupus causes a long list of symptoms, but one very common one is pain in joints. It’s an autoimmune disease, so the body basically attacks itself. There isn’t a known cure for lupus, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle can aid with both prevention and symptom management.

Fibromyalgia

Medical professionals are still learning about fibromyalgia, an autoimmune disease that causes severe fatigue and aching all over the body, especially in the joints. It may affect the hands but generally affects a larger area of the body.

Neuropathy

Neuropathic conditions have to do with the confusion of the pain receptors in your body because of damage to the central nervous system. Neuropathy is marked by painful aching, tingling, burning, freezing, or numbness in the hands and feet. Sometimes it can feel especially painful in the toe and finger joints.

All of these conditions can affect the hands to one degree or another, so it’s important to remember that just because you may feel swelling or similar discomfort in your hands doesn’t necessarily mean it’s arthritis, as there are other potential causes.

How Can You Prevent Arthritis in the Hands?

The overall goal is to try and stop arthritis before it starts. This is the importance of preventative health — trying to prevent a condition from starting in the first place. Sometimes it's too late, though, and a condition develops. If this is the case, then treatment is what to focus on.

Let’s look at some ways of preventing hand arthritis and then a few things to do if you think you might be developing it:

  • Hand exercises: There are a number of hand exercises that you can do to make sure that the muscles around your joints remain strong. This can go a long way to ensuring you don’t develop osteoarthritis.
  • Good nutrition: The way we eat has a lot to do with how we feel and what conditions we tend to develop. A balanced, healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein can support joint health. Trying to avoid excess processed food and high-sugar foods and drinks is also important.
  • Stay in shape: Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the keys to avoiding osteoarthritis, which often manifests itself in the hands.
  • Be careful: If you do daily activities or have a job that includes lifting or moving heavy objects, be very careful about your body mechanics, and don’t overdo it. Try to avoid injury to the best of your ability.
  • Practice healthy habits: Smoking and excess alcohol consumption can raise your chances of developing several forms of arthritis.
  • Use physical assists: If you work on a computer, you might consider getting a specialized keyboard designed to use the best body mechanics for typing. If you have an area of your body that’s prone to injury, consider using an athletic wrap or sleeve to keep the joint more rigid.

How Can You Ease Symptoms of Arthritis in Hands?

Perhaps you already have hand pain that you suspect is arthritis. What can you do?Here ares a few suggestions:

  • Medication: NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) like ibuprofen can help to bring down some of the inflammation. These are over-the-counter but can also be prescribed by a doctor in higher doses.
  • Assistive Devices: Braces and splints can help your joints to remain rigid, which may help your hand function and help calm some of the pain you’re experiencing. An ergonomic brace worn on the hand might be helpful if you’ve already developed some arthritis in your hands.
  • Ice and heat: An ice pack applied to the hands can help numb the area so there’s less pain. A warm compress or heating pad can relax the pain away.
  • Topical rubs: There’s a wide variety of balms, creams, lotions, and oils that can be applied to the hands to help with arthritis. Some contain medicines (like lidocaine) that can numb the area of pain. Other topicals contain herbs, oils, or plants like peppermint to either distract from the pain or promote a relaxing, soothing feeling.

Preventative Health for Your Hands

The most important thing to remember overall is that preventative health is better than dealing with a problem once it's already started. Staying active, eating well, and getting enough rest, are the most important. Making sure not to overdo when using your hands is important, but also important to use them!

If you’ve already developed an arthritic condition in your hands, try some of the methods above to nip it in the bud, or at least manage the symptoms before it prevents you from doing the things that you love.

Sources:

Osteoarthritis of the Hands | Arthritis Foundation.

Juvenile Arthritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment | Arthritis Foundation

Gout: A Disease of Kings | NCBI

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