Psoriatic Arthritis – Things to do when your hands ache.
This post is for my own benefit. I’m in remission just now and it’s easy to think straight, but my arthritis will flare up again. I know if I hit a bad flare its very difficult to know what to do for the best, so at least if I have some ideas written down I’ve something to try when the pain gets too much and maybe it will help someone else.
In psoriatic arthritis entire fingers swell up at one time, so called, sausage fingers. One finger can hurt like h*** but the one next to it can be totally normal. When a finger is normal this is called “sparing” presumably because it’s spared the disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is different and the joints all the way across the hand tend to hurt, e.g. all the knuckles and you tend not to get sparing. Either way, sore hands make your life miserable very quickly.
Things I’ve tried
1 Painkillers and anti-inflammatories. These only work if you take them (!).
Paracetemol is a good drug, most people think it is too mild and not strong enough to deal with their pain. That can be true, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, properly. Bandolier has some good articles on paracetemol and arthritis, that show it doesn’t help most people but it can be useful in combination with other drugs (not least because you can take it on an empty stomach, i.e. first thing in the morning before you get out of bed). If your doctor agrees you can take paracetemol, then two hours later take an NSAID (e.g. diclofenac) and 2 hours after the NSAID take take another paracetemol (i.e. so there is 4 hours between paracetemols but only 2 hours between drugs). There isn’t a lot of evidence for this but there has been some research. Of course you shouldn’t combine 2 NSAID drugs e.g. dicofenac and ibuprofen, see this BUPA factsheet for more info.
2 Heat Helps
Heat helps, but it isn’t really practical to go about your day with a hot water bottle strapped to your hand. I like my microwave hottie, it’s great for sore backs and hips, but only really good for a sore hand if you are sitting at the computer. On the subject of heat, I find wrist warmers really help, if my fingers are swollen gloves just irritate them, but as these have one large hole for your fingers they are much more comfortable if your joints are flaring. You can also get them in funky colours and can use them to hide the more medical looking NHS splints. And no, I’m not a skier and never have been, I can’t think of anything worse!
3 Computer Keyboards and Mice
I work, I use a computer, most people do. At the moment I use a logitech wave keyboard and mouse. It’s fairly arthritis friendly, they keys certainly have a nice “action” when pressed and unlike other logitech mice, it doesn’t have an annoying click on the click wheel. If my hands are really sore, I sometimes find it easier to use a graphics tablet instead of the mouse, I have a bamboo one. It takes a bit of getting used to. I also use more keyboard shortcuts, as I find constantly moving my hand between the keyboard and the mosue can be very painful. A bookstand is also useful, I like this soft squishy, book bean bag, called a bookseat, because it’s good for reading in bed as well as for working at your desk.
4 Taking a break/Keeping moving
Not staying in one position too long helps, which is easier said than done if you’ve got a lot of work to do. I picked up this tip from the Living Well with Pain and Illness book, where it was suggested you use a vibrating watch/meditation timer to remind you to stop and have a break. I find stopping easy, but starting again is a problem! Anyway, the thing that works for me is something called the “Gymboss”. No I haven’t been inside a gym for years, but it is a vibrating timer, its much cheaper (smaller and easier to use) than a meditation timer and you can set different time intervals. So when I’m working on the computer, i set it for 30 minutes and then it vibrates, I take a break for 5 mins and then it vibrates and reminds me to start working again.
5 Wrist Splints
I don’t use wrist splints all the time, but I find if I put them on, I can get a few more miles out of my hands if my fingers/wrists are especially bad. During the day I like WristEasy, as they are light and don’t look too “NHS”. It’s getting harder and harder to find different sizes of these, so I fear they have stopped manufacturing them. I hope my pair last a long time. I also have a night splint for when the pain is really bad and I can’t even bear to have the duvet touching my hand.
6 Relaxation/Meditation/Visualisation CDs
I have a few of these, some have exercises specifically for your hands and arms, I think I’ll write a separate post on them.
Things I haven’t tried yet but would consider if I had a bad flare.
2 A paraffin wax bath (a poor mans wax bath, washing the dishes in hot water!)
3 Arthritis gloves. Are these a gimmick? I’m not sure I haven’t tried them, that’s not to say I never will…
So, there you go. If you’ve got arthritis some of these ideas may (or may not) help you. Its also good to talk to other people who understand, I like the Arthritis Care forums (UK) and the National Psoriasis Forums, (US) a little sympathy can go a long way If you’ve got any tips or suggestions for coping with sore hands, I’d love to hear them, please feel free to leave a comment below.