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Arthritis of the Hand and Wrist

1 Learn

What can cause Arthritis of the Hand and Wrist?

A joint is where two or more bones meet. There are three types of joints:

  1. Fixed
  2. Slightly Movable
  3. Freely Movable (Synovial)

Synovial joints are the most common joint in the body and can be divided into 6 classifications:

  1. Gliding – Tarsals in the heel.
  2. Condyloid – Carpals in the wrist.
  3. Saddle – Between metacarpal and carpal in the thumb.
  4. Hinge – Humerus, radius and ulnar in the elbow.
  5. Ball and Socket – Pelvis and femur in the hip.
  6. Pivot – Atlas and axis in the neck.

All of these contain articular cartilage, a spongy material which prevents bones from rubbing together. They also all contain Synovial fluid, which helps with mobilisation of the joint and its maintenance by providing nutrients.

Moving a joint in its full range promotes blood flow, synovial fluid production and nutrient/waste regulation. This makes the joint stronger, healthier and more free to move. Knowing this makes it easier to see that not having enough movement in our lives can lead to joint degeneration and pain.

Overusing a joint can also be a problem. Repetitive movement of a joint in the same plane can wear down the cartilage over time. The surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments then stiffen, further reducing the range of motion and inhibiting efficient blood flow. This reduced blood flow makes it difficult to bring nutrients to the joint and so it becomes a challenge for the joint to repair any overuse damage. Bringing back the range of motion in the joint and loosening the surrounding muscles leads to greater flow of blood and synovial fluid, thus helping to prevent or undo this damage.

One of the most common diagnosed joint problem that can occur in joints is Arthritis, ‘Arthro’ meaning joint and ‘itis’  meaning inflammation, which is the name given to more than 100 types joint conditions. Two of the most common types are:

  1. Osteoarthritis – the most common arthritis affecting millions of people world wide. It is a result of degeneration in the joint such as the articular cartilage allowing friction to take place.
  2. Rheumatoid – an autoimmune disorder where your own immune system attacks the cartilage in the joint.
Next step

2 Create

Vision Exercises

  • Sunning

    We should all know by now that the sun has a full spectrum of benefits for our bodies. In particular the sun provides Vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium in the bone. So by sunning regularly you not only encourage the production of happy hormones to lift your mood, but you also activate the macula in your eyes (the part of the eye responsible for seeing fine detail), exercise your pupils and most importantly for Arthritis strengthen bones and joints!

    “This may well be true, but what if I live somewhere like England and it’s never sunny!?!” Well try our skying exercise. Even if the sun is not gracing us with its full rays because of cloud you are still receiving light rays and its benefits. Even, if you don’t want to sky just getting out the house and going for a walk is good enough, the only down side is you have to wear your bathing suit…only joking!

Body Exercises

Movement Exercises

  • Application of Hot or Cold

    If you have inflammation in the joint, which is true in most cases of Arthritis and general joint pain, you will want to put ice or a cold wet towel on the affected area. Do so for around 10-15 minutes, several times a day. The best time is after an activity that involves a lot of movement in the joints such as exercise or spending a lot of time on your feet. Ways of applying cold can be a cold towel, ice pack or even better, and our favorite, a cold bath.

    Applying heat, such as a hot towel, to the muscles surrounding the arthritic joint can help to relax and lessen the tension being placed on the joint. A hot bath is a great way to relax a large group of muscles at the same time. However, you will probably want to apply cold such as ice to the joint to reduce its inflammation. You can also combine hot and cold treatments by having a hot bath to relieve muscle tension and icing the joint at the same time by bringing an ice pack into the bath.

  • Elevation

    Elevating the swollen area allows the excess fluid to drain away.  For hand and wrist arthritis rest your hand above the level of your heart. Elevating a joint is a perfect time to apply ice or a cold compress.

  • Hands and Feet Exercise

    Throughout the day you need to encourage the full range of movement back into the joint. This will help improve circulation to the joint and redevelop effective regulation of synovial fluid, which in turn will bring nourishment. Hand rotations is great for this but take it one step at a time.

Massage Techniques

  • General Self Massage Techniques

    There are two goals for using self massage around an arthritic joint. First, you want to reduce swelling by draining the excess fluid. This is achieved by elevating the effected area and gently massaging the surrounding muscles towards the heart with techniques such as soft skin rolls and effleurage, For example, in the case of an arthritic hand massage the fleshy part of the hand and forearm by softly skin rolling the swollen areas. Please don’t massage the hand or wrist joints directly, only around them.

    The second goal is to loosen the muscles around the joints, reducing tension and bringing relief. As you get farther from the swollen joints you can use stronger pressure by switching massage techniques to tapping, shaking and deep tissue.


  • Forearm Stretch

    Stretching the surrounding muscles to the particular joint will perform the same as the massage, by loosening muscle relieving tension on the joint. in particular with the hand and wrist you will want to stretch the forearms.

Mind Exercises

  • Body Awareness

    In today’s society the vast majority of people have lost connection with their bodies. A great example of this is taking pain killers to numb the pain and separate “us” from ‘’it.” Pain becomes an inconvenience and we find it difficult to function whilst it is there. It makes sense for us to want to stop the pain as quickly as possible so we can get on with our work and daily lives.

    The problem with separating the body and mind is that over time the gap gets increased so we no longer understand what our body is trying to tell us. For example, someone is sitting for a long period of time. After 30 minutes or an hour the back starts to ache which is a clear signal to move or stretch. Instead that person continues to sit for another hour or so until they are forced to stand up through either too much pain or another task.

    For self healing to be successful we need to rebuild our mind/body connection to understand what activities can cause pain and what we can do, i.e. exercises, to work with it instead of against it. A benefit of this renewed connection is that instead of a quick fix for pain we can make the effects longer lasting.

  • Body Journal

    By keeping a journal about working with your body you can help strengthen your body awareness. It can help show you what activities in your life are causing pain such as the way you get out of bed and/or sitting for long periods of time. Through journaling you can start to focus on what you need to improve the condition and keep the pain from occurring and reoccurring. Everyone is an individual so certain exercises may not work for you. Your body will also change over the course of your program. The journal is a good way of keeping track of what is working for you and what is not.

    A body journal can give you a place to deal with pain and frustrations that are being experienced. Journaling also keeps track of your successes. Even the smallest improvement is still an improvement and should be appreciated! Over time its easy to forget how far you have come.  and keeping a journal can be a nice reminder of your progress.

  • Relaxation

    The body directly responds to the mind. If you are anxious your body creates tension leading to strain. On the other hand you can consciously use the mind to relax the body through activities like meditation, visualization and general relaxation techniques.

Next step

3 Integrate


  • Sunning – Open a window from within the house and sun.
  • Application of Hot and Cold – while watching TV, having a bath, before bed or early morning, while resting around the house.
  • Elevation – while watching TV, while reading in bed, resting on the couch or recliner.
  • Self Massage  – watching TV, before bed or first thing in morning, anytime you sense tension in the arm muscles, resting on the couch.
  • Stretching – Listening to music, talking on the phone, in between chores, combine with afternoon or morning exercise program. anytime the muscles feel tight.
  • Hand Rotations – While watching TV, lying in bed, in the bathtub, pick a time when to perform i.e first thing in the morning, before bed or lunch.
  • Body Awareness –  Standing and sitting posture, what movement or activity causes certain pains i.e getting in and out of bed, bring your attention to specific body parts when performing routine tasks, i.e brushing teeth chopping vegetables.
  • Body Journal – keep near by and add an observation when it arises, before bed i.e write out the observations of the day.
  • Relaxation – Palming, meditation, napping, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage, having a bath, going for a walk.


  • Sunning – Try sunning just before and after work, go outside during breaks and sun, open a window from within the building and sun
  • Application of Hot and Cold –  During breaks, while performing simple tasks, before after work, whenever there is pain.
  • Elevation – During breaks, rest your arm on an elevated surface, before or after work.
  • Self Massage-  While performing simple tasks, during breaks.
  • Stretching – During breaks, while talking on the phone, before and after work.
  • Hand Rotations –  Periodically during work day,  during a break, before or after work.
  • Body Awareness – Standing and sitting posture, bring your attention to specific body parts when performing routine tasks, i.e answering phones.
  • Body Journal – Keep journal near by and make observations.
  • Relaxation – Make sure you take your breaks! Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage, going for a walk.


  • Sunning -.While waiting for public transit to arrive, when going outside stop and sun briefly to help eyes adjust to the light. Slowly wean yourself from sunglasses
  • Application of Hot and Cold – As a passenger, before and after long journeys, take breaks on long journeys and apply.
  • Elevation – Rest hand on overhead bus poles or on the seat back in front of you.
  • Self Massage  – As a passenger, whilse walking, waiting for public transit.
  • Stretching –  As a passenger, stop and stretch periodically when walking, stretch before, during and after journeys.
  • Hand Rotations – As a passenger. sitting at a bus stop.
  • Body Awareness – Standing, walking and sitting posture, how certain movements create certain sensations, looseness.
  • Body Journal – Observe how the body responds during forms of transit, ie, sitting in certain position, length of time, walking up or down hill etc
  • Relaxation – Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage.


  • Sunning – Try sunning just before and after computer use, go outside during breaks and sun, open a window from within the building and sun.
  • Application of Hot and Cold – while sitting, during computer breaks, anytime the joint feels stiff or inflamed.
  • Elevation – Use a desk in front of you,
  • Self Massage –  preforming simple tasks, during computer breaks, waiting for something to load, on computer breaks. anytime tension is felt in the arm muscles, before and after using computer.
  • Hand Rotations – periodically while sitting at computer, during a short break.
  • Stretching – chair stretches, during breaks,
  • Body Awareness – Sitting posture ie are you arching the lower back in or out? Are you holding your shoulders up when typing, are you leaning towards the computer? is your back tired or in pain?
  • Body Journal – Keep the journal close by and make observations.
  • Relaxation – Palming, meditation, distance looking, listen to music or audio book, self massage.