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3 Tips For Managing Arthritic Hands

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When arthritis affects your hands, it can have a drastic impact on your life and even the simplest activities. There are several strategies to help reduce pain and regain your functionality.

Use Anti-inflammatory Strategies

The most common method of reducing inflammation in your hands is to use over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory pain medications (NSAIDs). This is an acceptable way to manage arthritis if you find the worst of your pain is occasional, since long-term use of NSAIDs can cause serious side effects. If you find OTC anti-inflammatories are not enough, prescription steroids can be a better option. Depending on the severity of pain and inflammation and whether arthritis in your hands is the only problem, your doctor can prescribe a short-term steroid regimen. This is typically 10-50mg per day for five days. Starting at a high dose and tapering off over two weeks is another option. Ideally, this strategy is used every few months as needed to minimize the chance of side effects, such as adrenal crisis.

Add Topical Treatments

Topical treatments can be used alone or in combination with OTC or prescription pain medications. For some people, using hot and/or cold therapy works to reduce pain. In most cases, heat is used to soothe achy joints. However, if you also experience swelling or you feel like your joints are hot (inflamed), the occasional use of cold, especially when alternated with heat, may be more comfortable. Since the use of lidocaine in OTC preparations has become more accessible, you may find using a lidocaine cream provides better reduction in your arthritis pain. The highest concentration available at the store is 4%. You can also ask your doctor for a prescription version of topical lidocaine, which has a higher concentration, if you need something stronger.

Try Surgical Management

In many people with hand arthritis, day-to-day tasks can become difficult and the pain eventually becomes hard to manage. Surgery is often the last option because it may alleviate pain, but some procedures can limit hand functionality. Depending on the severity of your arthritis, joint fusion or replacement may be the appropriate option. In a joint fusion, the arthritic joint is removed and the bones are fused together. This will eliminate motion at the joint. If you have many joints in your hands that have degenerated from arthritis, it is important to salvage as much motion as possible. Your surgeon will likely replace some joints while fusing others.

The occasional problem with hand arthritis can be managed with simple retail products. When your arthritis has progressed to the point of ongoing pain and limitations, surgical intervention may be the best option. For more information, check out websites like