By Ting Zhang, Orthopedic Surgeon
Do you have painful, stiff joints in your hands? You could have arthritis. Arthritis is the loss of cartilage at a joint resulting in inflammation, pain, and/or stiffness. We use our hands for many things during the day: driving, writing, typing, and many for our daily work.
We will discuss a variety of treatment options, some you can try on your own at home and others you would see a doctor for.
One of the first things we like you to do is keep track of what activities cause you pain. Then, if possible, you avoid those or use assistive custom braces which often can be fitted and fabricated by an Occupational Therapist for activities that you can’t avoid.
Heat and Ice
Both heat and ice are helpful in relieving pain. We recommend using heat especially in the morning when joints are stiff. You can run your hand under warm or hot water or soak under for 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn yourself by using too hot of water, though.
Ice is a great anti-inflammatory remedy which can decrease pain and swelling, especially after therapy or doing activities that are painful for your hands. You can use ice throughout the day for 10-15 minutes at a time if your hands hurt and/or swell. Make sure you use a towel in between ice and your skin to prevent frostbite.
Use a Brace
Braces can help certain types of arthritis by relieving pain in the joints. They shouldn’t be worn all the time, though- only during activities that cause pain.
Anti-inflammatory medications, such as Aleve, Advil (Ibuprofen) and Tylenol can help relieve pain. However, if you are taking them for an extended period of time, you should discuss with your primary care provider. Narcotic medications are not recommended for arthritis pain.
Corticosteroid injections are usually tried after the above options have been tried and are no longer helping. We provide these injections in the Orthopedic Institute. They can provide long-term relief of symptoms by decreasing inflammation in the joint. They do not, however, cure arthritis or prevent it from getting worse.
There are different surgical options available for when all of the non-surgery solutions have been tried and failed. Dr. Lindsey and I perform surgery right here at Southwest Health.
If you are experiencing hand pain, please call the Orthopedic Institute at 608.342.4748 and make an appointment. I am happy to sit down with you, talk about your lifestyle and day-to-day activities and come up with a solution that makes you happy and feel better.