Tips for Managing Arthritis in the Hands

Muscular-skeleto diseases cost the Canadian Healthcare system $33B/year

Hands and Arthritis Workshop by the Arthritis Society

Hands and Arthritis Workshop from the Arthritis Society

Last night we attended a workshop in Vancouver, BC put on by the Arthritis Society about coping with hand arthritis, one of the most commonly affected areas . Although, Jacquie and I both suffer from arthritis we were surprised to learn how little we actually knew about the disease. The Arthritis Society did a great job of filling in the gaps and answering questions that aren’t possible in a brief doctor’s visit.

Some things we learned:

  • There are over 120 forms of arthritis
  • It affects 1/10 people in Canada, and 1/7 people British Columbia.
  • Most sufferers are in the workforce (combating the perception that it only affects the elderly).
  • By the time arthritis can be seen on an X-ray, it’s too late for preventative measures.

We also learned the differences between how osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis cause joint breakdown. Rheumatoid arthritis, the most common form, is the inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. When the swelling declines, there is the painful bone-on-bone contact. In osteoarthritis, the fluid between the joints begins to decline, resulting in bone on bone contact and eventual fusing of the bones. Not much fun to look forward to.

Exercises for Arthritic Hands

Exercises for Arthritic Hands

However, there is help! Similar to refrains we’ve heard throughout our journey through the current state of healthcare, prevention is key. The presenter, Joanne Smith, Certified Hand and Occupational Therapist, stressed the need for hand exercises to stave off the progression of the disease. Participants were provided with a handout of hand exercises, which Joanne recommended doing 5 times per day. She stressed that keeping hands mobile is key, a warm up period is always necessary, and no exercises should be done to the point of pain. Even though we know that being proactive is the best way to manage a chronic disease, most people in the audience were already in advanced stages of arthritis. It would be great to see more outreach and awareness for people who might be at risk for future development.

Products for Arthritis Sufferers

Products for Arthritis Sufferers

Some key tips we learned for keeping your arthritis from progressing while getting on with the business of daily life:

  • Avoid repetitive motions
  • Avoid pinching
  • If you are gripping with your finger and thumb, use a “C” shape, which distributes pressure more evenly, rather than a “D” shape
  • Use bigger tools and grips
  • Pace yourself
  • If you can’t do something, trade work with someone who can, for example yard work for baking
Assisted Can Opener: why not make cans easier to open for everyone?

Assisted Can Opener: Why not make cans easier to open for everyone?

The session also highlighted a myriad of products and aids designed to help you open cans, jars, and pill bottles, and reach difficult places. It did make us wonder though, why are so many products to hard to open? We love what OXO Good Grips have done for better design of household items. Shouldn’t everyone have products that are easy and delightful to use?

Posted in: Managing Chronic Disease

Leave a Comment (2) ↓


  1. Jacquie March 23, 2013

    Here is a great article from Everyday Health on managing Rheumatoid Arthritis.

    “A combination of lifestyle changes and medications can help manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of joint damage.”

  2. Eric March 30, 2013

    Anne excellent writeup here. I had no idea about this: “By the time arthritis can be seen on an X-ray, it’s too late for preventative measures. ”

    I am currently helping my father with some ailements including arthritis and we’re looking at alternatives to his meds. I too am changing my diet to try and prevent the on-set of arthritis since I depend on my hands for work lol. Thanks for sharing the resources you did!

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