How to Prevent Arthritis in Hands
Hand arthritis affects your wrists and finger joints causing pain, swelling, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms of hand arthritis can occur every day, or you may experience a flare-up once in a while. As hand arthritis progresses, you may begin to experience chronic pain, making everyday activities difficult. While there is currently no cure for arthritis, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing arthritis in your hands or worsening your existing arthritis. Here’s how to prevent arthritis in hands.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight helps to protect the joints of your body by placing less stress on them, thereby helping to prevent the development of arthritis in your hands.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
While there is no definitive evidence showing that a certain diet can prevent or improve arthritis, many people feel better when they cut inflammation-causing foods out of their diet. Avoiding red meats, as well as processed and sugary foods, may help to prevent inflammation in the body, thereby reducing your risk of developing arthritis in your hands. Additionally, consuming a healthy diet, full of anti-inflammatory foods, can help to reduce inflammation and may prevent the development of arthritis in your hands.
Some healthy food choices include:
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod, herring, lake trout, tuna). This type of fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which helps to decrease inflammation.
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, peanuts, hazelnuts). These nuts and seeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, again helping to decrease inflammation.
- Olive oil. This helps to decrease inflammation and lower the risk of hand arthritis.
- Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit). These help to reduce joint pain.
- Green tea. This type of tea is full of antioxidants and polyphenols, which helps to decrease inflammation and also helps to slow the deterioration of cartilage in the joints.
- Spices (ginger and turmeric). These may help to decrease inflammation.
3. Quit Smoking
If you smoke, it is important that you quit; if you are a non-smoker, it is advisable to avoid second-hand smoke, as this has been shown to reduce the risk of developing hand arthritis.
4. Protect Your Hands When Playing Sports
Using protective hand equipment, such as wrist guards, gloves, etc., when playing sports can help to prevent injuries that can promote the development of hand arthritis.
5. Protect Your Hands at Work
If your job entails a lot of heavy pushing, pulling and lifting, it is important to be proactive and protect your hands by using appropriate safety equipment and proper lifting techniques to avoid excess strain on the hands and fingers. It’s also important to use any tools required for your job correctly.
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6. Use Good Ergonomics
Working on a computer all day can place excess strain on the joints of your hands and fingers. Using an ergonomic mouse and keyboard can help to decrease some of this stress. Additionally, using dictation software, as opposed to typing, can help to take off some of the load from your hands.
7. Do Simple Hand Exercises
Performing simple exercises with your hands can help keep the joints, tendons and ligaments flexible, increase synovial fluid within the joint and keep the muscles of the hands and fingers strong.
Here are some simple hand exercises to try include:
- Wrist flexion and extension – place your forearm flat on a table with your palm facing down with your hand hanging off the edge of the table. Extend your wrist back until you feel a stretch. Hold this for five seconds, then flex your wrist down until you feel a stretch and hold this position for five seconds. Repeat these movements 10 times on each wrist.
- Wrist supination and pronation – place your arm at your side and bend your elbow to 90 degrees with your palm facing towards the ground. Slowly rotate your forearm so that your palm is facing upwards. Repeat this motion 10 times on each wrist.
- Thumb flexion and extension – keeping your fingers straight, bend your thumb in towards your palm until you feel a stretch, and hold this position for five seconds. Then, slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this stretch 10 times on each wrist.
- Thumb-to-fingertip touches – start with your thumb and all fingers straight. Touch the tip of your index finger to your thumb (making an okay sign). Then, return your index finger to the starting position, and repeat this motion with the remaining fingers. Repeat this exercise three times on each hand.
8. Use Supportive Devices When Necessary
Using supportive devices, such as splints and compression gloves, can help to properly position the joints of your hands to reduce the chance of injury. Additionally, they can help to decrease pain and increase range of motion. For instance, wearing hand or finger splints during activities that require repetitive use of your fingers, wrists and hands can help to provide support, while also reducing pain and increasing range of motion. An alternative to hand or finger splints is compression gloves, which can be worn at night after splints have been taken off. Compression gloves are tight-fitting gloves that may help to reduce hand stiffness and pain, while also helping to improve function of the hand.
Hand arthritis can be painful and make everyday activities difficult to carry out. If you are at risk of developing hand arthritis, follow the steps outlined above to reduce your risk of developing hand arthritis.