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Ask A Hand Therapist: Arthritis Patient Handout Free PDF

Ever sit down with a patient to work on writing only to realize that holding a pen causes them pain? You find yourself at a crossroads: Should you ask them to push through the pain? Or change your treatment plan?

Luckily for you (and your patient’s hands!) you are part of a multidisciplinary team. Team members, such as hand therapists, can help you manage your patients’ pain while still meeting your speech therapy goals.

At least 1 in 4 adults has arthritis. And arthritis of the hands and arms in particular can cause loss of function due to pain, stiffness, swelling, and joint deformities.

It’s best to refer patients with hand or arm arthritis to a hand therapist or their doctor for treatment.

But there are things that patients can do at home to reduce pain, maintain function, and protect their joints!

We’ve asked certified hand therapist and ergonomic specialist, Bobeya Krishnek MOT, OTR/L, CHT, CEAS, to create a patient handout for hand and arm arthritis. Below, we review her top tips for reducing pain and keeping function. Or skip ahead to a free arthritis patient handout.

For speech therapy handouts, worksheets, Goal Banks, and much more check out the Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack!

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Pain Management for Arthritis

Pain is the main complaint for people with arthritis. Common areas of pain are the base of the thumbs, the fingers, wrists, and shoulders.

Pain can interfere with daily life, limiting functional participation.

The following strategies can help decrease arthritis pain. You can discuss these options with your patient and see which ones seem promising.

1. Get a brace (for wrist or thumb pain)

3pp prima thumb brace for cmc thumb arthritis
Image from ohmyarthritis.com

Braces help to immobilize the arthritic joint. This relieves pain. Braces can also prevent arthritis from getting worse.

Find braces at a local pharmacy or big box store. Or see a hand therapist for a custom brace.

2. Use Moist Heat

DIY rice heating pad with bottle of lavender oil
Moist Heat Heating pad. Image from livingwellmom.com

Moist heat loosens up the joints, which helps relieve pain. Try:

  • Soaking in a sauna or hot tub

  • Taking a warm shower or bath

  • Using a paraffin bath

  • Using a heating pad

    • Buy a heating pad with grain inside (buckwheat or rice)
    • Make your own heating pad. Fill a long sock with dried rice. Tie a knot at the end of the sock
    • Microwave heating pad for 30-second intervals, 1-2 minutes
    • Drape the heating pad on your painful joint

3. Use Compression Gloves

Image from Amazon.com

Compressive gloves are tight, tipless gloves that provide warmth and compression. This relieves discomfort, especially during the winter.

They’re sold online and sometimes at big box stores or fabric stores like JOANN™ Fabric.

4. Try This Exercise to Relieve Base of Thumb Pain

exercise for thumb pain arthritis

This exercise releases tension, helping the thumbs to feel better.

  • Make an “L” with both of the thumbs and index fingers

  • Press the webspace of both hands together for 1 minute

Maintain Function & Mobility

From versusarthritis.org

Unfortunately, once arthritis sets in, it’s easy to lose the range of motion of those joints. And once that motion is lost, it’s tough to get it back.

To avoid this, people with hand and arm arthritis must stretch and strengthen their arthritic joints in a pain-free way.

It’s best to visit a hand therapist to get the right exercises.

Patients can find basic arthritis stretches and exercises on reputable .gov or .org websites.

How to Protect Joints

ergonomic tools for arthritis
Jar opener. Image from oxo.com

Avoid repetitive movements to protect arthritic joints. This can also decrease pain.

People with arthritis can adapt their daily activities to keep doing what they’re doing, but in a way that protects their joints and reduces pain.

For someone who cooks often, they can use kitchen tools that reduce repetitive chopping or twisting. If someone gardens, they can get gardening tools with wider handles and with grip. Again, discuss these options with your patient to help them identify which ones may be helpful.

Here are some common ways to decrease repetitive movements and protect joints:

  • Use wider handles with grip (gardening tools, wider pens, Oxo brand grip tools, etc.)

  • Jar openers, automatic can openers, dicers & food processors

  • Use lever door handles instead of knobs
    • Attachment levers can be added to round door knobs

  • Wear a brace (thumb or wrist)

Hand & Arm Arthritis Patient Handout PDF

Here is your Certified Hand Therapist-approved arthritis patient handout!

It’s designed to help people with arthritis manage their pain, keep their function, and protect their joints.

Refer your patient to a hand therapist for best results.

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