From reaching for the alarm clock in the morning to turning off the light every night, our hands play an important role in our daily activities. But osteoarthritis, a condition that's marked by joint tenderness, stiffness, and swelling, can make these activities painful.
“Osteoarthritis in your hands is a gradual developing problem related to a pattern of overuse. We use our hands as tools, putting stress on small joints that don't have the power to complete the activity,” explains Deborah Humbert, certified hand therapist and manager of the Bryn Mawr Rehab Hand Therapy Program at Riddle Hospital. “You may begin to notice the symptoms starting slowly, like waking up with stiff fingers and experiencing pain when trying to make a fist, but it may develop into a condition that is functionally limiting.”
Unfortunately, there are currently not any options to cure osteoarthritis. If you suspect you may suspect you may be suffering from the condition, an appointment with a physician and an X-ray can determine the severity of your osteoarthritis and the health of your joints.
Although there are no permanent treatment options available for osteoarthritis, your physician may recommend heat treatments and exercises to increase flexibility, maintain range of motion, and decrease joint pain. Below, Humbert offers some basic hand range of motion exercises to try next time you're experiencing osteoarthritis pain.
Hand stretch – Hold your hand up with your fingers straight and spread your fingers wide apart, and then tight together.
Finger lift – Lay your palm flat on a table. Keeping your hand still, lift each finger one at a time for two seconds each and slowly lower.
Thumb stretch – Turn your hand so your palm is facing up, and stretch your thumb out to the side of your hand. Bring your thumb to meet the tip of each of your fingers, one at a time, making an ‘O’ with your finger and thumb.
Open fist – With hand and fingers straight, bend fingers at the big joints and fold the middle joint down to the palm, making an open fist.
Closed fist – Start by holding your hand straight, and then slowly curl your fingers into a hook formation as if you were picking up a bucket handle, then roll your fingers into a tight fist.
There are other things you can do to help improve your osteoarthritis symptoms, too, including maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, exercising, and using assistive devices to make everyday activities easier to complete.
“If lifestyle adjustments and home exercises are not enough to help reduce your pain, there are medications and surgical options available to you,” explains Humbert. “These should be assessed individually by a doctor who specializes in rheumatology.”
From evaluation and treatment through recovery and rehabilitation, Main Line Health’s orthopaedic professionals are committed to providing the best possible care. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health’s orthopaedic services.