If you’re experiencing pain in your hands, you’re likely not alone. Many people have complaints of pain or discomfort in their hands, particularly more so, as we age. There are many reasons or causes of pain that affects the hand but the most common will be discussed here.
What is the most common cause? Arthritis. In fact, more than 49% of people 65 years and older have been diagnosed by a physician with osteoarthritis. But it doesn’t just affect the older population, 1 in 4 working age adults age 18-64 who have arthritis have work limitations and in fact, arthritis is one of the leading causes of work disability in the US. Oftentimes, the thumb and joints of the fingers are areas of the hand that most will report as painful or problematic.
How does it affect functional abilities? Most individuals with arthritis report pain is the main limiting factor along with weakness and instability. Complaints may be reported as; difficulty opening a jar or lid, holding a pen or turning the car keys, holding a cup of coffee, buttoning and zipping as well as holding a cell phone or book.
What can you do? The best way to avoid osteoarthritis is by protecting the joints from overuse/wearing down while completing activities involving the hand and fingers but often people don’t recognize what they are doing will eventually “catch up with them” and so, it isn’t until someone experiences pain or disability that they seek intervention. But, it’s not too late. If you begin to notice pain, stiffness, and difficulty with certain activities you can still do things that will help in reducing discomfort, joint deterioration and improve your functioning.
What to do if you notice symptoms of arthritis?
- Protect your joints: Splints and braces offer a position of rest for the joints, these splints or braces can be worn at night as well as during the day while performing activities in order to prevent the wearing down of the joint.
- Change how you use the hand. You can also look at the tools or devices you use everyday and see if you can change how you hold, pinch or use them. Building up the size of the handle of tools (spatula, screwdriver, pen/pencil, car key), using a cell phone holding device such as a “ Pop Socket” or ring, using an electric jar opener, etc. All of these can reduce how the joint is positioned or how hard you must use the joint to perform the activity.
- Exercises: Using heat and gentle exercises can help keep the joints mobile and strong. But be careful! Do NOT use excessive resistance or force when completing strengthening exercises for grip/pinch as this can actually accentuate the deterioration of the joint and cause more pain.
If you have pain in your hands, don’t wait! You can act now to protect and conserve the joint as well as be more comfortable doing what you love or need to do. If you have questions or would like to talk with our hand therapist about treatment, call our office today at 605-231-2490 or ask for a referral from your doctor.