Physio Q&A: How do I improve arthritic pain in my hands?

‘I suffer from arthritis, especially in the small joints of my hands. The cold weather often makes the pain in my hands a lot worse and limits what I can do with them. I am keen to stay as active as possible, is there anything you can suggest I can do to limit this pain and keep me active?’

This is a common concern for a lot of people I see with osteoarthritis in the joints of their hands. Although there is no scientific evidence that confirms cold weather has a consistent link to increased pain in the joints it is something that is symptomatically present with many patients. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), who advises the NHS and the government on the effectiveness of treatments for many conditions, highlights core areas that must be considered when treating the pain of arthritis as well as some additional treatments that vary in their effectiveness.

Minimising the pain

Essentially, to minimise this pain it is important to fully understand the condition of osteoarthritis in order to know what to do to avoid flaring it up. Useful information can be found on

The NICE guidelines provides some insight into some commonly used pain killers and topical agents that have good levels of evidence in helping ease these pains. For short term flare up relief, a physiotherapist or GP may also issue a splint depending on how you present at the time of your appointment. This is typically used when your symptoms are more severe. The use of heat or cold pack doesn’t have much clinical evidence but is found to be useful by many patients.

Strengthening the muscles

It is also advised to strengthen the local muscles in the hands and wrists as well as maintaining a good level of physical fitness as good circulation is really important.

For individually tailored advice on the best management of your specific arthritis, it is always advised to speak with your GP or a recommended Physiotherapist.

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