WHY do I have joint pain as I’m getting older? IS joint pain inevitable with age? As a practicing hand therapist for over 15 years, I wish I had a dollar for every time I have been asked questions like…
“Why does my shoulder hurt when I reach up into my cabinet to pick up dishes?” “My wrist pops and hurts when I turn my steering wheel now. It didn’t do that before. Why is this happening now?” “My hand felt good yesterday, but today it feels terrible and I can’t open any of my medicine bottles. Why is that?”
As we get older, we don’t just get wrinkles on our skin, we get “wrinkles” on the inside which affects our joints. 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, where 2 or more bones meet to allow movement. 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, turning a key in a lock, or opening a bottle of water.
Joint Pain Risk Factors
- 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
- Lifestyle: Smoking increases one’s likelihood of developing and/or can increase the severity of several arthritic conditions
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.
Tips to Alleviate Joint Pain
- Completing hand strengthening and range of motion exercises to maintain muscle strength and range of motion prescribed by a hand therapist
- 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
- Take natural substances and supplements that can promote healthy connective tissues like Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and Fish Oil
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. Request an appointment online today!