Next time you wrap your fingers around a coffee mug, pick up a grocery bag, or scoop up some water to wash your face, thank your wonderful hands. Since we use our hands for nearly everything, we often take these anatomical blessings for granted.
Unless, of course, you have arthritis or an injury– then your hands may be painful, swollen, and stiff, especially in the morning. They may ache and simple things like picking up a key, holding a jar, and chopping food may be difficult.
While arthritis and other health concerns can be challenging, there are ways to reduce the stress to your hands and protect them. Follow these tips for helpful ways for taking good care of your hands.
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1. Strengthening and range of motion exercises
- Simple daily hand exercises can help reduce pain and swelling while improving your muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the joints. If you experience any pain, soak your hands in warm water while performing the exercises.
2. Modify your activities You can’t avoid using your hands entirely; but, you can listen to your body and change the way you go about certain activities to diminish the strain on your hands.
- Re-think painful activities. If chopping onions and vegetables hurts your hands, use fresh and frozen pre-cut options. Is it hard to open a jar? Use easy-open containers.
- Use two hands to lift or grab an object. Pick up a gallon of milk with both hands rather than using one around the handle.
- Use your whole hand rather than just your thumbs. Don’t lift heavy plates or bowls by grabbing them with your thumbs; carry them across both palms.
- Rest and stretch. Stop to take a break and stretch during tasks that stress your hands, like vacuuming or washing dishes.
3. Use items that can help take the stress off your hands Adaptive (also called assistive) devices can help reduce pain and stress on your hands. Some helpful items include:
- In the kitchen -a knife with a curved blade that rocks as you cut, reduces the stress on your hands. The Duo Glide Knife has earned the Arthritis Foundation Ease-of-Use commendation.
- When traveling- carry a light weight backpack style bag you can load up without straining your hands and arms while carrying your lunch and cameras. The Flip & Tumble Backpack folds into a tube and opens to a full size, lightweight pack.
- Out in the garden– good gloves that fit comfortably and help you grip and pull are a must. Easy-to-wear, lightweight gloves such as Protexgloves are a great gardening option.
4. Wearing splints, braces or gloves Wearing splints or braces that support your fingers/thumbs or gloves that help with swelling can allow for better movement and help relieve pain. It is always recommended that you consult with your healthcare provider on what will work best for you.
- Finger splints can be worn to hold your fingers in a functional position. The Oval-8 Finger Splint is thin and light weight, and can be worn day or night without limiting hand movement.
- Thumb splints can help support your thumbs and limit motion to help relieve pain. Lightweight less resistive splints can be a good starting solution. Often, all you need is a light support that provides compression around the joint(s) to support the thumb, while still allowing you to function. For light support, the 3pp ThumSling supports the CMC joint and applies light compression to help reduce slipping and grinding on the joint.
- Protective gloves not only provide protection, but can help keep your hands from swelling for better function and movement. Protexgloves with light compression are soft and comfortable and can help make every day activities easier.
5. Talk to your health care provider
- Your health care provider knows your health history and may recommend over-the-counter medications or joint relief products tailored to your needs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), are commonly used to help with inflammation. Analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin or topical pain creams(Topricin) can also help reduce pain.
- They may also recommend a visit with a physical or occupational therapist who specializes in treating conditions of the hand. Therapists can evaluate your needs and help you with exercises and techniques to relieve pain and make performing daily activities easier and more satisfying.
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