As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. What else to do we hear about when the showers and thunderstorms come? Aching joints! How many times have you heard, “It’s going to rain today. I can tell because my joints are aching and my arthritis is acting up?” Research has yet to determine if joint pain associated with changes in weather is due to barometric pressure sensitivity or temperature change. Either way, joint pain is real and as we get older can be an every day nuisance.
One of the most common cause of joint pain is osteoarthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones breaks down causing pain at a joint. This breakdown causes bones to rub against each other leading to stiffness, pain, and loss of movement of the affected joint. Osteoarthritis of the hand can be particularly debilitating, leading to inability to perform even simple tasks such as gripping a fork or spoon, turn a key in a lock or open a bottle of water. A few factors play a role in osteoarthritis including:
Age: More common with advanced age
Weight: Excessive weight puts stress and strain on joints and causes more damage to cartilage
Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis
Heredity: Inherited joint defects or increased joint mobility can contribute to development of osteoarthritis
Injury: Fractures, dislocations, overuse or ligament tears can lead to osteoarthritis development
Symptoms of hand arthritis include pain, stiffness, loss of motion, swelling, nodules, joint deformity, and weakness. While osteoarthritis is a chronic disease resulting from “wear and tear” on joints, there are ways to manage symptoms and reduce stress and strain on your hands. A few simple tips to take good care of your hands and protect your joints include:
- Completing hand strengthening and range of motion exercises to maintain muscle strength and range of motion
- Reducing stress and strain on joints in the hand: use the strongest joint available for the job, use 2 hands to lift or grab an object, or use items that take stress off your hands such as an electric jar opener.
- Wearing protective splints, braces or gloves on your hands to provide pain relief, joint support or protection
- Modifying your activities and respect your pain to diminish stress and strain on your hands
If you are seeking a more custom program to manage your hand or joint pain, Axes Physical Therapy provides free consultations at our 9 therapy locations. We will work with you to find the best course of treatment to manage your joint pain and allow you to do the things you enjoy.
About the Author: Jennifer Hoffman OTR/L, CHT is a certified hand therapist in Festus, MO. She’s treated upper extremity injuries to the hand, wrist, forearm and elbow since 2005.