Posted in rheumatoid arthritis

My Rheumatoid Arthritis Hands


I am one of those people who tries to maintain an optimistic composure even and especially when it comes to having rheumatoid arthritis. However, lately my RA has a mind of its own, and for whatever reason, it has taken attack to my hands. This is frustrating and has left me a bit depressed.

First of all, I am a legal assistant and what I do for a living is type, and with the problems I have been having with my hands, I am not sure how long I will be able to continue working in my current position. Second, my husband is in management so he works all the time, and he is usually not home when I am preparing meals and doing other household chores in the evening. Basically, I have no one to ask for help when it comes to things that require hand precision. I ask my ten year old for help, but there are things I would prefer not asking him for help in, i.e., using a knife.

Some mornings, like this morning, I wake up with my hands curled up. I literally have to pry them apart to get them apart and it is very difficult to keep from dropping things when my hands are acting like this. This morning, I could barely hold my toothbrush. It is worse in the morning, but I still have problems doing the day. For example, the other day, I tried to tighten some screws in the hinges of a closet door. Needless to say, I did not have any luck. I became so frustrated with my hands that I started to cry.

The next time I see my rheumatologist I will be discussing the issues that I have been having with my hands. Despite my current treatment regime, I am still having pain and swelling in my hands more than in any of my other joints. Second, I have pain when bending or straightening my fingers. I have also have numbness, tingling and cramping. It is like my hands have a mind of their own, like they are possessed or something. Sometimes, they are stiff or they lock up.

I am looking at arthritis gloves and hoping that by using them, maybe it will slow down the degeneration in my hands. Even though my rheumy insists that my typing for a living is not damaging my joints, a part of me wonders if she is wrong. The one thing that I have forced myself to believe is that RA cannot stop me from living my life, but at some point, I will be wrong, and I wish it wasn’t my hands that were paying the price.

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14 thoughts on “My Rheumatoid Arthritis Hands

  1. Hi Lana,I am sorry that your hands are bothering you so much right now. Have you tried a paraffin wax bath for some relief? It does take some time to sit with your hands covered in wax but it has really helped me with the pain and some of the stiffness. I also massage the wax after I take it off my hands and it does help work out some of the stiffness as well. I know how hard it can be in the morning especially when you have kids that you are trying to get going as well. I have tried some hand gloves to do some detail work like needlepoint. They didn't really give me any relief but they did not look like the ones you have in the image.Good luck. I hope that this is just a temporary setback.

  2. I don't know what meds you are on, but sounds like you need more! More drugs, some prednisone, a carpal tunnel release and synovectomy of the wrists or something. Gloves won't slow down the damage, but the heat and compression from them does provide a little relief. You may need some or increased prednisone and different NSAID, and perhaps add in some tylenol arthritis alternating with the NSAID as long as your liver enzymes are alright. Typing won't damage your hands, but do make sure that you have an ergonomic keybord and chair and proper sitting posture and wrist posture to help with the numbness and tingling. If store-bought gloves and splints don't help, then get a referral to a hand therapist who can make some custome splints for you.Chelsea

  3. Like you, I believe the effect on my hands is the most frustrating of all. I got tears in my eyes when I read about the curling of your fingers. 😦 During one particularly bad flare-up, my fingers were doing that worse than usual.I slept on my back, with my arms to my sides, trying to keep my palms presses flat against the bed, so they wouldn't curl. It was a hellish night.I hope you find some relief soon.

  4. so sorry Lana….that sux for sure! I do agree with the paraffin wax ….oh gosh what a wonderful thing that is! I haven't had my hands to curl up yet but the wax helps with pain SO much! As you know, I do med transcription for a living but I dont know if I told you that my rheumy said typing is very good for your hands….it keeps them mobile! I hope he is right…he is very smart and compassionate…so time will tell! But, I do know from working for a physiatrist (sports and rehab doc) many years ago that keeping the joints active are best (unless of course there is acute injury)…my problem with this is that I sit in a chair ALL day typing which is supposedly good for my hands but what about my hips, knees, ankles? ugh! I do try to walk for exercise so maybe that will help idk! I do hope you get some better RA meds…sounds like what you are on isn't quite doing the job. Or maybe you need a short course of pred? I'm a single mom to a 12 year old so I know how you feel about the frustration of not being able to do things like before. While my hands havent curled…they can hurt something awful and I feel so clumsy with them ! hope you feel better soon!

  5. For everyone who asked, I do not take prednisone and the last time I mentioned the exhaustion that I have on a daily basis, my rheumy responded by telling me that that is what my current medicine regiment is for and that we need to give it time. I am currently on Sulfazine, Humira, and Paquenil for my RA and Gabapentin for the FMS but really, expect for the addition of the Humira in October, I have been the same meds for quite sometime and it might be best to try something new. Thanks for all suggestions and advise.

  6. dear lana…pls pay special attention to your hands…i have faced exact same problems! continuous typing will only make it sore….pls dont exert ur wrists if they are hurting, it may cause internal damage. i am suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for past 6 yrs and one thing i have come to realise that while we shud trust our doctors we must understand things from our own experience. For morning stiffness in ur wrists- pls soak ur hands in warm water as u wake up. it shud give u some relief frm pain and help u move on with other activities. keep ur hands covered and warm as much as possible. when u feel relief do mild exercises, such as rotating ur writs, close ur fist and open. it will help maintain mobility. with RA each day comes as a challenge but small additions in daily routine may just help us a give it a tough fight!

  7. You and I are very much alike! The RA has focused on my right hand especially the wrist and ring finger. But I have found that if I can keep them warm, it keeps them flexible. I have the gloves that are USB plug-ins and when it gets cold here in Colorado, I put those puppies on!I have also found that doing dishes in the hot water is therapy for the hands as well. Now that I have found your blog we can definitely keep in touch!

  8. Hi! Like you I am a mum of 3 with RA, Fibro and a few other things to boot. I think the meds you are on will try and help the ra, but do little for the fibro. I have a couple of tips- I find my hands get hot, swollen and hurt like Billy-o. The compression gloves help as they are so cooling. The other suggestion from my OT is to get some split peas (lentils) and put them in an old ice cream tub and put them into the back of the refrigerator. they are lovely and cooling then and totally recylable! I have downloaded this relaxation music and guided imagery onto my ipod for before I go to sleep. That, together with trying to pace myself better has really been the only thing that has helped with the fibro.Anyway, great to follow your blog. If you want a bit of a giggle with a whacky wonky warrior who faces many of the same struggles as you are in the UK please do check out my blog. I've only recently started but there is already quite a bit on there.

  9. What you put into your mouth can dramatically make a difference with your RA. I suggest you read this book called Eat To Live to get a better idea on the importance of the effects of Food and RA. It has changed my life and Progression of RA.

  10. Hi Lana, I just saw your post and am going through the same thing right now. I was just diagnosed w/ ra 6 weeks ago. I have terrible pains/stiffness in my fingers and wrists. I type for along. I’m a lawyer for a big government agency and have to meet production quotas that require constant computer use. I really worry about what damage this is doing to m hands. I would like to hear more about how you have progressed.

    1. Matt – This post goes back a few years but I can tell you that my hands aren’t as bad as I anticipated. I have come along away and I am a legal assistant so I go a lot of typing. I am still working fulltime and I freelance write part-time. I am a single mother and I am still managing my RA and fibromyalgia. Take care of yourself, take your medications, take your doctor’s advice and try to be hopeful. That is all any of us can do. Good luck to you. Please feel free to continue to stop by and share your progress.

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