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Large-handled tools make gardening easier with arthritis.
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Arthritic diseases often affect joints in the hand, causing pain and impaired function. Arthritis is a progressive disease that requires medical intervention, but several at-home interventions can help you cope with the symptoms you experience every day. Consult your doctor to determine which interventions are appropriate for you.
Pain is one of the most debilitating side effects of arthritis. In addition to medications prescribed by your doctor, pain relieving interventions performed at home make daily tasks easier. Application of heat or cold for 15-minute intervals has been shown to be effective in temporary pain relief for arthritic hands. Compression gloves worn for an hour at a time during the day or all night while you sleep reduce swelling and pain caused by inflammation.
Hand weakness and stiffness can develop as daily activities are decreased due to inflammation caused by arthritis. Daily range of motion exercises in a pain-free range improve flexibility and reduce risk of muscle contractures. Avoid overexercising inflammed joints, however. Increased swelling or pain that persists for more than two hours after exercise indicates that the intensity is too high and modifications must be made to prevent exercise from causing more joint damage.
Arthritic diseases cause the joints in your hand to break down, eventually causing the bones to move out of alignment. This causes pain and reduces grip and pinch strength, affecting your ability to perform daily tasks. A variety of splints are available to support arthritic joints and hold the bones in proper alignment. Ring splints are worn around affected finger joints to reduce pain and improve function. Custom splints are molded by trained health-care professionals to support the base of the thumb, which is often affected by arthritis. Splints are worn during the day to improve function and at night to keep joints from moving into painful positions.
Adaptive equipment makes daily tasks significantly easier for people with arthritic hands. Kitchen utensils, household tools and writing tools with larger handles or grips reduce the amount of grip and pinch strength needed to use them, reducing pain and improving function. Electric can openers and jar opening tools promote independence and protect affected joints.
Modification of daily tasks will improve your ability to cope with arthritis. Whenever possible, use large joints to accomplish tasks rather than straining the small joints in your hands. For example, loop grocery bag handles over your forearm to engage the stronger elbow muscles rather than gripping the handles with your hands. Lift cooking pots with two hands, resting the handle in one palm and the base of the pot in the opposite palm, rather than tightly gripping the handle with one hand. Wrap a dish cloth over your sink faucet and twist the ends to wring out excess water, rather than gripping and twisting the cloth in your hands.
Rest your hands frequently. Fatigue will increase pain and pressure on the arthritic joints in your fingers and hands. Break up daily tasks to avoid prolonged gripping or pinching. For example, after 30 minutes of gardening or food preparation, take a walk to allow your hands to rest.