4 Tips for Managing Osteoarthritis in the Hands


What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint condition that involves the gradual breakdown of cartilage in one or more joints. When the protective cushioning of cartilage deteriorates, the bones in the joint eventually rub together, causing inflammation and pain.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Because the condition is typically caused by normal wear and tear, the risk of developing OA increases with age and generally worsens over time. Common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness, which can occur in one or multiple joints.

If the hands are affected by osteoarthritis, various tips to help reduce pain and inflammation include the following:

Practice hand exercises

Practicing hand exercises helps to maintain manual dexterity and range of motion of the hands and fingers. It can also help reduce stiffness, inflammation and pain.

  • Gently form a fist and then slowly unfurl the fingers and thumb. Do several sets for each hand.
  • Open the hand, palm upward, and allow it to relax in a natural position. Next, move the thumb tip toward the pinky base or as far as possible in that direction. Do several sets for each hand.
  • Make a letter “C” with the fingers and thumb. Then, extend the fingers and thumb straight. Do several sets for each hand.
  • Grip a sponge or rubber ball and gently squeeze it.

Try temperature therapy

Typically, stiffness is reduced by applying heat. And swelling, (as well as pain), is reduced by applying cold. Application methods vary widely and take the form such as hot/cold pads or hot/cold baths or showers. Experiment and understand which method serves you best as you consult with your physician or therapist.

Modify household tasks

Using ergonomic tools for everyday household tasks can help minimize discomfort in the hands. Various ergonomic tools, such as jar openers, grabbers, and easy-to-grasp utensils are available for purchase. These devices make it easier to perform tasks that require twisting and gripping with the hands.

Consider splints or braces

Hand and wrist splints and braces can help restrict the hands and fingers from moving in a painful manner. However, it’s important not to wear them constantly as they can contribute to stiffness.