You knew that arthritis means inflammation of joints but did you know that there are more than hundred different forms of arthritis! However, the most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Understanding Arthritis in Hands
Your hand and wrist are made up of multiple small joints essential to produce motion. If your joints in hands like those in wrist or fingers get affected by arthritis, even your daily routine will get affected due to painful and, in worst cases, non-movement of the joints in hands. Your hands move smoothly due to a tissue called articular cartilage which covers the ends of bones and gives a smooth gliding surface for your joint. Along with cartilage, an oil like fluid produced by joint lining called synovium is also responsible for smooth functioning of joints as it keeps the smooth surface lubricated. When cartilage or the lubricating fluid or both or even synovium get affected due to various causes of arthritis, you suffer from pain and inflammation in your hands.
Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis in Hands and Fingers
Osteoarthritis is much common and usually affects older people. It leads cartilage to wear away and generally appears in a predictable pattern in certain joints. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis may affect many parts of your body. It makes the joint lining or the synovium inflamed or swollen. This leads to pain and stiffness in the joints of your hands. Rheumatoid arthritis normally begins in the small joints of your hands and feet like those in fingers.
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in fingers usually include anti-inflammatory medicines, joint supplements (glucosamine and chondroitin) that are the building blocks of cartilage, cortisone injections, ice & heat treatment, splints and hand therapy to prevent stiffness in the fingers. If all these treatments for rheumatoid arthritis in fingers fail then surgery becomes essential for treating the deformity.
Home Remedies for Arthritis Pain in Hands and Fingers
While the above mentioned ways of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in fingers are essential, you can get natural pain relief for arthritis in hands through certain home remedies and exercises of hands. These can not only relieve pain but also reduce inflammation of the swollen fingers and hands due to arthritis.
1. Use Heat or Ice for Arthritis Pain Relief in Hands
Arthritis in hands is a chronic condition and as such both cold and heat can help reduce swelling which in turn relieves pain. Now what to use- Heat or Cold pack? Doctors say whatever feels better to you should be used. However, it is always recommended consult your doctor before applying heat as well as ice to your arthritic hands because everybody respond to pain differently. There are, however, certain general rules regarding use of heat and cold for arthritis pain in hands.
When to Use Cold for Arthritis Pain in Hands
The general rule is that cold packs or ice are best for injuries like bruises, sprains or acute trauma. Trauma like fractures and dislocations are major causes of arthritis in hands. You can also use ice for flair of pain that you feel after an activity. Cold packs act as an analgesic. It numbs the sore region and reduce swelling fast to give you relief from pain.
How to Apply Ice for Pain Relief?
Cold packs should be applied for only 10-20 minutes at a time. More than this can hurt you.
- Keep a frozen gel cold pack in your freezer and apply whenever you have a flare of pain.
- You can also wrap some ice cubes in a clean cloth or towel and use it a cold pack.
When to Use Heat for Arthritis Pain in Hands
Heat is generally recommended for stiff joints. Heat helps in loosening joints and relaxing stiff muscles. When you apply heat for arthritis pain, it relaxes tendons and ligaments. This increases flexibility of your joints and decreases pain. Heat also promotes blood flow to improve joint range of motion.
How to Apply Heat for Pain Relief?
Too much heat can burn your skin and affect your condition in a worse way. The heat applied should be just enough because hands heat up very easily as the tissue there is not too deep.
- Take a bowl of warm water.
- Soak your hands or swollen fingers in this water for few minutes.
Talking about warm water soak, you can make it more effective by adding some epsom salt to it which is also our next remedy.
2. Epsom salt Soak to Relieve Pain of Arthritis in Hands
Epsom salt is rich in magnesium sulfate that is one of the best ingredients for pain relief due to its high content of magnesium. Magnesium relaxes your body muscles and nerve endings which in turn help relieve both, stiffness and pain. In fact, a diet high in magnesium leads to better bone density and gives you stronger bones, good news for all suffering from arthritis! While you can have foods high on magnesium dark leafy greens, nuts, legumes, beans etc. You can also use Epsom salt in warm water to get relief from pain.
- Epsom salt- 1/2 cup
- Warm water- 1 bowl
- Add the Epsom salt in the bowl full of warm water.
- Mix it well and soak your hands in a way that your whole hand till wrists gets submerged in the water.
- If, however, you only have painful swollen fingers due to arthritis, a small bowl that will help you submerge your fingers only would also do.
- Soak your hand or fingers for about at least 15 minutes to get relief from pain.
3. Massage Hands with Olive Oil to Get Relief from Arthritis Pain
Olive oil now has been accepted as a miracle oil for many a diseases. It is also good for the arthritis patients as it lubricates their joints well to relieve them of pain. The component oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil inhibits inflammatory enzymes thus relieving you from arthritis or any other pain. While you may also like to replace your cooking medium with olive oil, the best remedy for now is to massage your hands or fingers, or both with the miraculous olive oil.
- Take some extra virgin olive oil
- Apply this to your painful hand joints.
- Now massage with this gently rubbing the oil into your joints.
- You may repeat it 2-4 times a day depending upon the severity of your pain.
4. Castor Oil also Relieves Arthritis Pain in Hands
Talking about oil massage, you can also use Castor oil for the purpose. This oil has a component called ricinoleic acid that contains analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It was not in vain when your mother insisted on gulping castor oil in your childhood days. You can still have it internally. Just heat up two tablespoons of castor oil and add it to your daily breakfast juice. While you may not get instant relief from pain but will sure feel the difference in the level of pain within a couple of weeks. Massaging your hands with this castor oil can also give you relief from swollen fingers and joints as well as from pain
- Take some castor oil.
- You may or may not warm it up a little.
- Now gently massage your hand and finger joints with this oil.
- Do this twice daily.
Precaution: When taking castor oil internally, be aware of its laxative effects.
5. Use Essential Oils for Natural Pain Relief from Arthritis Pain
Not only olive and castor oils, even essential oils can give you relief from pain in hands due to arthritis. Specifically speaking, peppermint and eucalyptus oils have analgesic properties. They are also cool oil. You will feel a cool soothing sensation when you apply these oils to your sore hands. This may also help calm your pain sensations for a while.
- Peppermint oil- 8-10 drops
- Eucalyptus oil- 8-10 drops
- Carrier oil (olive, jojoba, almond, grapeseed or coconut oil)- 1-2 tbsp
- Small glass bottle- 1
- Add peppermint and eucalyptus oil to the carrier oil of your choice.
- Now store this oil blend in a small dark glass bottle somewhere away from direct sunlight.
- Whenever, you get a flare-up, just take some drops of this oil and rub onto your hands or fingers.
6. Homemade Cayenne Pepper Ointment for Arthritis Pain Relief
Cayenne pepper has a component called capsaicin which inhibits a neurotransmitter called substance P. This substance P sends pain signals to your brain. Blocking it means having no sensation of pain. Whenever you buy an over-the-counter ointment for pain relief, just go through the ingredients list and you will be surprised to find capsaicin in almost all of them. So, why not make an ointment yourself at home that will have more strength to counter your ever increasing pain due to arthritis in your hands.
- Cayenne powder- 2-3 tbsp
- Carrier oil (grapeseed, almond, olive, or jojoba)- 1 cup
- Grated beeswax- 1/2 cup
- Glass jar with lid
- Add cayenne powder to the oil of your choice.
- Heat this mixture using a double boiler for 5-10 minutes. Keep the heat at medium setting.
- Now stir in the beeswax. Keep stirring till it melts.
- Ensure, all the three things have blended well.
- Keep the prepared ointment in refrigerator for about ten minutes.
- Take it out and whisk it for a while.
- Store this in a glass jar with lid and keep it in the refrigerator.
- Whenever you feel sore pain in your hands, take some of this ointment and rub into your joints.
- The ointment will stay good in the refrigerator for about 10-15 days.
7. Have Apple Cider Vinegar for Arthritis Pain in Hands
Apple cider vinegar contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant. It also has acetic acid. Both of these components lend apple cider vinegar its anti-inflammatory and alkaline properties. This, in turn, makes apple cider vinegar a useful remedy for pain relief. You can take this drink internally as well as soak your painful hands or fingers in it. Here’s how.
1st Way to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Arthritis Pain Relief- Drink it
- Warm water- 1 glass.
- Apple cider vinegar- 1 tbsp
- Honey- 1-2 tsp
- Take a glass of warm water.
- Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to this.
- Add 1-2 tsp of honey and mix well.
- Have this once daily.
2nd Way to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Arthritis Pain Relief- Soak hands
- Cayenne pepper- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp
- Apple cider vinegar- 1 cup
- Warm the apple cider vinegar.
- Add cayenne pepper to this.
- Mix well.
- Soak your hands or fingers in this warm solution for 10-15 minutes.
- Wash off your hands.
- Repeat daily.
8. Have Blackstrap Molasses for Pain Relief from Hand Arthritis
Blackstrap molasses is rich in a variety of nutrients. These include calcium, potassium, and magnesium. This is in fact a folk remedy for all types of pains. The minerals rich drink regulates the nerve impulses in your body to relieve pain. It also improves muscle functioning and strengthens bones. Therefore, you can have this sweet remedy for arthritis pain relief.
- Blackstrap molasses- 1 tbsp
- Warm water- 1 cup
- Heat the water to make it warm (not hot).
- Mix blackstrap molasses to this.
- Have it once daily.
Precautions: Beware of the laxative effects of blackstrap molasses.
9. Turmeric-Ginger Combination for Hand Arthritis Pain Relief
Many studies have shown that curcumin, the active component of turmeric is very effective in relieving pain, tenderness and swelling of joints resulting from rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric alone is effective and when it is combined with yet another established anti-inflammatory ingredient, ginger, it becomes a super remedy for arthritis pain. However, the time when you take both these herbs also plays role in alleviating pain. When you take them with food, they help more in digestion than in relieving pain. If you want these spice herbs to reduce stiffness, inflammation and pain due to arthritis, have them in between meals. You can do this by making a tea with both the herbs.
- Ginger root- 1 inch piece Or ginger powder- 1/2 tsp
- Turmeric herb (root)- 1 inch piece Or turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
- Honey- 1-2 tsp
- Water- 2 cups
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Add the ginger and turmeric pieces or powder, whatever you are using. to this boiling water.
- Reduce the flame to simmer.
- If using pieces, simmer it for 15-30 minutes.
- If using powder, simmer it for 10-15 minutes.
- Strain and add honey to this.
- Mix well and have such a tea twice a day in between meals.
10. White Willow Bark Reduces Pain due to Arthritis
The active component of white willow herb called salicin reduces the production of pain-inducing chemicals in the nerves. Salicin, in fact, gets converted into another chemical called salicylic acid inside your body. This salicylic acid regulates the production of some prostaglandins that are hormone-like substances and whose work is to control the immune system and combat joint inflammation too. This helps relieve pain even due to rheumatoid and osteo arthritis. You can easily make tea out of this herb to combat pain of your hands.
- white willow bark (powdered or chipped)- 2 tsp
- Water- 1 cup
- Honey- 1-2 tsp
- Lemon juice- few drops
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Now reduce to simmer and add white willow bark
- Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Put off the flame and let it steep for another half an hour or so.
- Add honey and lemon to counter its bitter taste.
- Drink this tea twice a day.
Precaution: Beware of the common side effects of white willow bark that include stomach upsets, increased blood pressure and allergic reactions.
11. Drink Nettle Tea for Pain Relief from arthritis in Hands
The herb nettle has active compounds that help reduce inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines can be understood as messengers of cells that cause inflammation due to immune responses. The active compound of nettle leaves, in fact, inhibits the protein that activates of these cytokines in the synovial tissue lining the joints. This stops swelling and pain in fingers and hands as well as other joints in the body. You may make nettle tea as described below.
- Fresh nettle leaves- 1 cup OR dried leaves- 1 tsp
- water- 2 cups
- Honey (optional)- 1-2 tsp
- Add fresh nettle leaves to the water.
- Bring this water to a near boiling point.
- Reduce the heat to simmer and let it infuse for 10-15 minutes.
- Strain and have it twice a day.
- If using dried leaves, do not boil. Pour hot water over the dried herb and steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and have it.
- Honey can be used to enhance the taste of nettle tea.
12. Juniper Berry Tea for Alleviating Pain due to Arthritis in Hands
Many studies have found that juniper berries have a component called terpinen-4-ol that suppresses a type of white blood cells known as monocytes. These monocytes are part of human immune system and they respond to signals of inflammation. This property of juniper berry to suppress inflammation causing monocytes can help you combat swelling in hands and fingers as well as other joints due to rheumatoid arthritis. Remember to get prickly juniper or common juniper, the varieties of juniper berries that are said to be effective for pain relief.
- Dried juniper berries- 1 tbsp
- Hot Water- 1 cup
- Honey (optional)- 1-2 tsp
- Place dried juniper berries in a pot or a cup.
- Pour the boiling hot water over them.
- Let it steep for about twenty minutes
- Strain and have this tea after adding honey if using.
- Have a cup of this tea twice daily.
Precaution: If you are pregnant, avoid having juniper berries tea.
13. Dandelion Tea for Hand Arthritis Pain Relief
This is yet another herbal remedy to get relief from pain due to arthritis in hands. Dandelion leaves are a rich source of vitamins A and C. Therefore, they can repair the damaged tissues that lead to inflammation and pain in the body. They also have anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of linoleic fatty acid in them. Linoleic acid regulates the production of prostaglandin in our body to help regulate immune responses to combat inflammation. While you can add dandelion leaves to your salads and soups, a better way to treat arthritis pain is to make dandelion tea.
- Fresh dandelion leaves- 3 tsp Or dried leaves- 1 tsp
- Hot water- 1 cup
- Place the fresh or dried dandelion leaves in a pot.
- Pour hot water over it.
- Steep for 10-15 minutes.
- Strain and have it twice a day.
Along with all the above natural remedies for pain relief, you must also include certain exercises of hands and fingers to improve the condition of your swollen fingers and wrists etc. Hand exercises are an easy way to keep the joints flexible and to improve their range of motion. Relieve arthritis pain in your hands not only by following remedies but also by doing hand exercises learnt from an expert.