Living with autoimmune disorders can be tough, especially when it comes to handling symptoms such as pain, inflammation etc. Rheumatoid arthritis, if not managed well, can lead to loss of joint function and movement.
Symptoms such as joint stiffness and pain, inflammation and redness, joint deformity and tenderness and even fatigue are commonly experienced by individuals affected by rheumatoid arthritis, and taking steps to manage these symptoms and stop the progression of the disease is of utmost importance.
Here we’ve listed down over 15 actionable forms of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in the hands.
The saying ‘you are what you eat’ holds true, especially when it comes to autoimmune diseases. Sticking to a healthy, plant based diet and limiting the consumption of processed foods is the key to good health and better management of symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. There are many studies that attempt to put down a list of foods that make up for a ‘arthritis diet,’ but most of these studies are too small to be classified as valuable enough.
However, there are certain foods known to be extremely helpful in stopping the progression of rheumatoid arthritis right in its tracks. Fatty fish such as salmon are thought to help calm down inflammation and redness thanks to their ‘healthy oil content.’ Including more of these fish to your diet could help. In addition, turmeric is also thought to have valuable anti-inflammatory properties which could help calm down the symptoms associated with this disorder.
Hand Stretching Exercises
Practising hand stretching exercises is one of the best ways to improve mobility of the joints of the hand and prevent stiffness and pain. While there is no one-size-fits-all exercise routine for individuals affected by rheumatoid arthritis of the hands, following these basic exercises everyday could improve joint health significantly.
- Bend your fingers at their base- right where they connect to the palm, making sure that all your fingers are straight and not bent. Hold onto this position for around 5 seconds and then release slowly. Practise this in sets of 5-10 twice a day.
- Keep the palm and the base joints of your hand straight, and bend your fingers from their first two joints, one by one, holding each position for 2-5 seconds.
- Keep all your fingers straight and touching together, and then bend them from the base such that the tips of your fingers touch the base of your palm. Hold onto this position for a few seconds and then release.
- Hold your palm and fingers straight, and then slowly spread all your fingers outwards like a fan, hold for a few seconds and then bring them back together and close your hand in a fist.
- Make an ‘O’ by touching the tips of your index finger and thumb together, and fan the rest of your fingers. Do this twice or thrice a day.
In addition, simple hand movements such as running your fingers through a bowl of raw rice, or holding a tennis ball for a few seconds, can keep your hand and finger joints healthy.
Mindfulness meditation is believed to be another effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis of the hands. It works by reducing stress, enabling you to cope with it better, and also reduce the intensity of joint pain. This form of meditation has also been found effective in helping individuals recover from mental disorders and lose weight while controlling their food cravings.
Apart from finger and hand exercises, overall physical activity also has many benefits, especially if you’re looking to deal with your condition in a natural way. Exercise improves the flow of oxygen in the body, which keeps all the internal organs working at their best. In addition, regular movement also improves the flexibility and strength of all the joints of the body.
If you haven’t been exercising since a long time, start small and try to be on the move for at least 10-20 minutes a day. Brisk walking and light jogging make for good options for physical activity for starters.
Controlling and limiting the intake of specific foods and food groups can go a long way in helping you reducing your progression of rheumatoid arthritis and minimizing the damage to your joints. Meats and processed foods are among the worst foods listed down for individuals affected by this condition, as well as for all individuals in general. If you must, stick to lean meat sources.
Foods rich in refined sugar are also a strict no-no, since they cause inflammation rapidly. Coffee and caffeinated beverages also tend to worsen the condition of those affected by joint pain and stiffness.
NSAIDs (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) are often used to treat chronic pain occurring due to inflammation, and can prove to be useful for patients affected by this autoimmune disease as well. However, it is absolutely necessary to follow a physician’s recommendation when it comes to taking these meds, especially when it comes to dosage and the type of meds.
While pain meds obviously make for a hassle-free symptom management option, they should be used as a last resort when it comes to handling rheumatoid arthritis. Most pain meds tend to come with a list of side effects associated with their use, and can prove to be harmful to the body in the long run.
Many doctors also prescribe DMARDs (disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs) slow down the progression of the disease; however, they too, come with their own set of side effects such as diarrhea, hair loss, headaches etc. New biological treatments are being developed to help deal with the disease without any side effects whatsoever.
Simply submerging your hands in warm paraffin wax has also been found effective in relieving pain in the finger joints and stiffness associated with the condition. It is best to immerse the entire palm and the wrist in the paraffin bath, and follow this up with some gentle hand exercises.
Massage therapy is yet another effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in the hands. When provided by a professional physical therapist, it can stimulate blood circulation to the hands, heal the internal tissues, reduce joint stiffness and pain and do a lot more. Infact, a recent study has also revealed that individuals affected by rheumatoid arthritis who practise a self massage daily had improved overall tissue extensibility, increased range of motion in the wrist and fingers, and also a reduction in the frequency and intensity of other related symptoms such as sleep disorders, anxiety and depression.
Massaging your hands and fingers with essential oils like frankincense, myrrh and cedarwood essential oil can bring about relief from pain as well as stimulated healing.
When combined with regular finger exercises, the application of warm compresses can significantly boost finger and hand motion and provide relief from pain to patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Place a moderately warm compress on your fingers every time you feel stiffness and pain, and even before you start with your regular finger exercises
The use of low level laser therapy has also now been found effective in reducing pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors often recommend this form of therapy in clinics, which is thought to work by reducing the sensation of pain in the peripheral nerve. Talk to your doctor about trying out this therapy as an option for handling your condition.
Yoga combines the benefits of two really effective approaches when it comes to working as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis of the hands. It provides the body the benefits of engaging in physical activity and improves the intake of oxygen as well, and at the same time, acts as a natural stress buster, which in turn, reduces the effects of stress-induced inflammation.
Stress is one of the biggest causative agents for a good percentage of health disorders today, some of which seriously influence the quality of life of individuals. Stress management is therefore, one of the best, foolproof and natural ways to beat the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis and improve your quality of life. Stress actually tends to aggravate the condition by convincing the body to trigger an inflammatory response, which thereby damages the joints.
Include more of foods in your diet that act as a natural stress buster- choose from berries, bananas and dark chocolate. Exercise is also an excellent natural stress buster.
Joint replacement surgery is an invasive treatment option for those affected by severe rheumatoid arthritis, which doesn’t respond to any other treatment measure. In such a surgery, the entire joint is replaced by another material such as plastic or metal. This form of treatment can be particularly helpful for individuals whose joints have been totally destroyed and damaged
Swimming and exercising in the water is great for individuals affected by rheumatoid arthritis. It provides movement to the joints and therefore includes the benefits of physical activity, but limits the amount of stress on the joints. Talk to your doctor about signing up for a swimming class before you go do it.
Apart from these, many other approaches could also calm down many symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Certain herbal anti-inflammatory supplements (when taken after the advice of a general physician) could help reduce the intensity of swelling, redness, inflammation and pain, and stimulate healing.
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements are often prescribed to individuals affected by osteoporosis and they could also help for those affected by rheumatoid arthritis, particularly when it comes to restoring joint mobility.
- Some evidence also reveals the effectiveness of cartilage preparations such as chondroitin and glucosamine in dealing with the disease.
- Losing weight could be of great help for individuals who are a bit overweight, since it could lessen the pressure and stress on their already weak joints, and could significantly decrease pain and boost joint mobility.
- Fish oil supplements could also prove to help, since they not only reduce inflammation and slow down the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, but also calm down pain to a certain extent.
- You could also try using certain devices and gloves that provide gentle compression to the joints and tissues of the hand, which in turn, help reduce the risk of aggravation of symptoms. Some hand gloves have been found effective in reducing pain and inflammation as well.