Those versatile tools that always enabled you to skillfully button a shirt, open a jar, or tap out your thoughts on a keyboard may be stiff, hurting, or even changing shape.
Arthritis is most likely the problem, and its effects can compromise one's independence. "The American College of Rheumatology has a campaign on how arthritis and other rheumatic conditions affect lives, and the symbol is a fork with twisted tines. That sums it up. Using a fork or doing any simple task can become difficult, whether it’s using a cellphone, typing, grooming, cooking, or eating," says Dr. Jeffrey Sparks, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a rheumatologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
There are 2 main types of arthritis. The most common type is called osteoarthritis, and is a degenerative problem that erodes the cushioning (cartilage) in the joints. As bones grind against each other, new bone forms, showing up as bumps (called nodes) on the joints. The body is actually trying to heal itself by sending protein to the area, and they form new bone matter. The new bone size and shape can limit motion.
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an overactive immune system that (for unknown reasons) attacks the lining of the joints. Just like in osteoarthritis in, the joints can become painful and stiff. However, in rheumatoid arthritis, the joints can become swollen, red, and warm. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause fatigue, low-grade fever, sweating, poor appetite, difficulty sleeping, and inflammation of the heart, lungs, or eyes.
What can we do to be a partner and advocate for our health? First, see your health practitioner. Do not put it off. There are ways to slow down rheumatoid arthritis. Unfortunately, we don’t have drugs to halt or slow osteoarthritis. Treatment involves controlling symptoms and improving our hand function with over the counter pain medications and creams. Once again, motion is the lotion. Do hand exercises, and any type of movement which uses the hands improve circulation. I find hot yoga and hot Pilates very helpful, I also wear gloves or mittens when hiking to help warm up the hands and make my joints more agile.
I hope this has been helpful in your wellness journey.