Arthritis that affects the hands can be painful and lead to disability. If arthritis is severe enough to cause joint deformity, everyday tasks such as grooming, eating and dressing can become challenging. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and maintain range of motion in the hands. There are some general remedies for arthritis in the hands that can be tried. However, since arthritis affects each person differently, it may be necessary to experiment with a few remedies to see which ones work best.
Medications and Injections
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in the hand can both cause joint deformity and make everyday tasks difficult. As the joint changes shape, there may be pain, swelling and loss of range of motion.
The first step in treatment is to find the right medication to control symptoms by inhibiting the body's ability to cause inflammation, states the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This includes both over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory drugs. If those fail, hand injections can be tried.
Since all forms of arthritis can make using the hands challenging, the Cleveland Clinic recommends performing gentle hand exercises daily to help maintain as much strength and range of motion in the hand as possible. This can include opening the hands their widest and then making fists or touching each individual finger to the center of the palm one at a time. To help build strength, there are hand-held devices that can be squeezed to exercise hand muscles and joints.
Creams and Gels
Topical solutions can be applied to the hands that may help ease symptoms, claims the Mayo Clinic. Some formulas are designed to make the joints feel hot or cold, which may help relax the hands or numb the pain. There are other products that contain aspirin to help reduce pain and swelling.
Products that contain capsaicin work by lowering the levels of substance P in the body. This chemical plays a role in sending pain messages to the brain. In addition, there are gels and patches that contain prescription-strength medication that a physician may recommend.
In the case of psoriatic arthritis, or psoriasis, the National Psoriasis Foundation claims that topical medications such as corticosteroids, as well as keeping the hands clean and utilizing light therapy may help.
Paraffin Wax Bath
A paraffin wax bath consists of dipping the hands into warm wax a few times to cover them completely. The hands are then covered with a towel or plastic bag to help keep the warmth in. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases states that this kind of treatment can supply heat to arthritic hands, which may help increase blood flow and relax tight muscles and joints.
Similar results can be obtained through applying a warm and moist towel or heating pad. Physical therapists can administer heat treatments in the form of microwave or ultrasound therapy as well.
In cases of severe pain or deformity, wearing a hand splint may help. Splinting the hand can take pressure off sore hand joints and allow the muscles to rest. Wearing a splint too much can in some cases make the hand muscles weak. Given this, it is best to work with a physical therapist to help find the right splint and to learn how to use it properly.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Arthritis of the Hand
- Cleveland Clinic: Arthritis of the Hand and Wrist
- Mayo Clinic: Arthritis Pain Relief: Creams and Gels for Aching Joints
- National Psoriasis Foundation: Treating Psoriasis in the Hands and Feet
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Questions and Answers About Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases