ARTHRI­TIS IN THE HANDS

Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion & help­ful aids

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Mar­garita Gure­vich & Justin Bal­bir

This ar­ti­cle will fo­cus on arthri­tis of the hands and how phys­io­ther­apy can help man­age this con­di­tion. Arthri­tis is a very com­mon con­di­tion which af­fects peo­ple of any age group, even chil­dren, but is more com­monly seen in older peo­ple. Arthri­tis can af­fect any joint in the body, such as the hands, knees, feet and oth­ers.

While there are var­i­ous types of arthri­tis, the two most com­mon are os­teoarthri­tis and rheuma­toid arthri­tis. Os­teoarthri­tis is caused by de­gen­er­a­tive changes in the car­ti­lage; rheuma­toid arthri­tis, on the other hand, is caused by an au­toim­mune con­di­tion.

COM­MON SYMP­TOMS OF ARTHRI­TIS IN THE HANDS.

The most com­mon symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with arthri­tis of the hands in­clude (but are not lim­ited to) the fol­low­ing:

• Pain in the af­fected joint – mostly with move­ment but can also oc­cur even at rest.

• Swelling and de­for­mity of the joint.

• Re­duced range of mo­tion and strength of the joint.

RISK FAC­TORS AND DI­AG­NO­SIS.

Cur­rently there is no con­sen­sus on what causes arthri­tis, how­ever there are a num­ber of known risk fac­tors. Pro­gress­ing age, trauma, joint in­fec­tions and overuse are among th­ese. In the case of arthri­tis of the hand, pre­vi­ous wrist frac­ture and an of­fice job which re­sults in sig­nif­i­cant overuse of the hands and fin­gers would be com­mon risk fac­tors.

So, what can you do if you have been di­ag­nosed with arthri­tis or sus­pect that you might have it? If you haven’t had a di­ag­no­sis yet, the first step would be to see your doc­tor to de­ter­mine whether you ac­tu­ally have arthri­tis and if you do, which type it is. For in­stance, you can only be di­ag­nosed with rheuma­toid arthri­tis based on a blood test for rheumatic fac­tors.

HOW YOUR PHYS­IO­THER­A­PIST CAN HELP.

Once the di­ag­no­sis is con­firmed the next step is to see a phys­io­ther­a­pist who will be able to sug­gest an ap­pro­pri­ate plan for you. While arthri­tis can­not be cured, hav­ing the cor­rect man­age­ment plan in place will help to con­trol the symp­toms and of­ten prevents the pro­gres­sion of arthri­tis. This plan should be spe­cific to each in­di­vid­ual pa­tient as each per­son’s cir­cum­stances are unique. Dur­ing the ini­tial ses­sion the phys­io­ther­a­pist will gather nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing your past and present med­i­cal his­tory and will per­form a thor­ough mus­cu­loskele­tal as­sess­ment. In the case of arthri­tis of the hand this as­sess­ment would in­clude an anal­y­sis of the range of mo­tion and mus­cle strength of the wrist and fin­gers as well as other spe­cific tests. The phys­io­ther­a­pist would

also dis­cuss with you the na­ture of your job. Your man­age­ment plan would con­se­quently be pre­pared based on this in­for­ma­tion. En­sur­ing a cor­rect er­gonomic setup is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of a good treat­ment plan if your job in­volves overuse of the

hands, as with an of­fice job. One of the best pieces of ad­vice which we can give our pa­tients, is to take reg­u­lar breaks to give their hands a rest. In one of our pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles we have also out­lined ex­actly what a good er­gonomic setup for an of­fice job in­volves. Re­fer to the ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled Work Re­lated In­juries in the Septem­ber 2017 is­sue of the

Great Health GuideTM. Fol­low­ing those steps will take a lot of load off the hands and fin­gers. Wear­ing a splint, that is a pro­tec­tive brace which looks like a fin­ger­less glove, can also help. Be­sides ad­dress­ing your work sta­tion setup, there is a wide range of treat­ment op­tions which are ef­fec­tive for arthri­tis man­age­ment. Th­ese in­clude elec­trother­apy, drug phore­sis, SCENAR ther­apy, bal­neother­apy or min­eral baths and spe­cial ex­er­cises. This is done in or­der to abol­ish, or at least re­duce, pain and in­flam­ma­tion. Once this is achieved, how­ever, the fo­cus shifts to an ac­tive ex­er­cise pro­gram. Your phys­io­ther­a­pist will pro­vide you with a spe­cific home ex­er­cise pro­gram which should be done reg­u­larly. This is very im­por­tant as it will avoid re­vis­it­ing your phys­io­ther­a­pist too fre­quently.

Mar­garita Gure­vich is Se­nior Phys­io­ther­a­pist and uses Clin­i­cal Pi­lates, SCENAR Ther­apy & other ev­i­dence-based tech­niques, in­clud­ing Real Time Ul­tra­sound and McKen­zie Treat­ment. Mar­garita spe­cialises in sports in­juries, women’s health (in­clud­ing in­con­ti­nence) and gas­troin­testi­nal is­sues. Mar­garita may be con­tacted via her web­site.

A good man­age­ment plan helps to con­trol symp­toms & of­ten prevents pro­gres­sion of arthri­tis.

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