The treatments that can really make a difference
We use our hands for activities ranging from cooking to brushing our teeth to gardening to writing a shopping list. So when our hands, wrists, or fingers hurt, the pain can interfere with much of what we do.
This type of discomfort can also occur more likely with age. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that about half of all women and a quarter of men will experience pain in their hands due to osteoarthritis (OA) , when the protective cartilage between the bones wears away, by the age of 85. But there are ways to ease the pain.
3 reasons why you feel pain in your hands
Pain and stiffness in the hands are typical of OA. “The base of the thumb is one of the most common places in the entire body where osteoarthritis develops,” says Jacob Tulipan, MD, Rothman Orthopedics orthopedic hand surgeon at AtlantiCare in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
People with hand OA, especially at the base of the thumb, often experience pain that is made worse by tasks that require pinching, squeezing, and grasping – for example, turning a car key or tightening a jar lid, says Julie Adams, MD. , professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in Chattanooga.
Another culprit could be trigger finger, when one of the rope-like tendons that allow you to bend and straighten your fingers becomes inflamed. This condition causes a locked or tight feeling that often causes pain when bending and straightening the finger.
Numbness, pain, or tingling in the hand, wrist, or arm can also be caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, when one of the main nerves to the hand is pinched as it passes through the wrist. Advanced age and diseases like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel, says Tulipan.
How to handle it at home
Over-the- counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), may help relieve joint swelling and inflammation due to OA, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, but will not reverse joint damage. .
A hot or cold compress can ease the pain, although figuring out which works best might take some trial and error, Adams says. Heat may be helpful for stiff joints before an activity, because it helps increase blood flow to the area, and cold can reduce pain and swelling after using the compress.
For thumb pain due to OA, you may want to make changes to items you use frequently, like pens and toothbrushes, “so you don’t have to use as much force to hold them,” Adams says. For example, “try wrapping duct tape around the pen so that when you pick it up, it will be bigger and won’t cause you as much pain.”
Other than this, you can try AcheBreak’s products that are made to help you get fast and easy hand ache relief.
Exercises you can try
To help prevent and counteract stiffness and pain, regardless of the cause, Tulipan recommends doing these 5 exercises (10 repetitions of each, twice a day). Your doctor may recommend other exercises for specific conditions.
Exercise 1: With your wrists and fingers straight, make a “board” with your fingers. Bend your knuckles. Hold the position briefly, then straighten.
Exercise 2: Make a fist and then straighten your fingers.
Exercise 3: Make an “O” by tapping your thumb with your fingertips, one at a time.
Exercise 4: With one hand resting on a flat surface with the palm facing down, spread the fingers wide and bring them together again.
Exercise 5: Begin the same way as in Exercise 4, then lift and lower each finger, one at a time.
When you need to see a doctor
If bothersome symptoms persist , it may be time for you to see an orthopedic hand surgeon, Adams says. And these doctors are specialists in hand pain, and although the title implies surgery, most cases do not require surgical treatment .
Treatments vary depending on the cause and severity of the pain. Corticosteroid injections can reduce discomfort and inflammation caused by OA or trigger finger. “Some people find little relief, while others experience complete symptom relief for a year or more,” says Tulipan.
Prescription topical anti-inflammatory medications can sometimes help as well. Surgery may be an option when other treatments fail, or in the case of carpal tunnel, to prevent permanent loss of sensation.