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Hand arthritis
Old 10-26-2008, 08:56 AM   #1
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Hand arthritis

Ive had some pain in my fingers for quite some time, but I never thought anything of it because Im always using my hands (either playing baseball while coaching my sons team or building something). I always figured I mustve banged a finger here or there which caused the pain but recently the light bulb came on and I figured out that I have arthritis. My mother has had it for a while now so it shouldnt surprise me, but alas it did anyway and I have to admit Im a bit depressed about it since I know it will do nothing but get worse.

Ive had alot of joint pain over the years and have had shoulder, elbow and neck surgeries so Ive become pretty tolerant of constant nagging pain, but the thought of this accumulating over time and getting worse and worse is depressing. Especially since Im only 43.

Anyway, on to my question:

I know some of you out there must have arthritis. What do you do about it? I havent been to the doctor yet and dont plan to go soon since its not agonizing pain or anything yet. Id just like to know what things you do, foods you eat, or supplements you take to help deal with and ease the pain.

When you do something that makes it worse (for me, playing catch with a football makes it worse), is that only causing the pain to be worse temporarily, or is it actually damaging the joints more and making the arthritis worse long term?
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:05 AM   #2
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You can't be sure that it is arthritis. It could be a number of things, including carpal tunnel. I'd get it checked out even though the pain is not agonizing. If it happened to be something like carpal tunnel it can get irreversibly bad if not treated.

I don't know jack about medicine, but my husband ended up with permanent damage from carpal tunnel and he thought he had arthritis in his hands.
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:18 AM   #3
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I thought carpal tunnel was in your wrists. My pain is in my right thumb joint (joint closest to the tip of my thumb, not nearest to my hand) and the middle knuckles of a couple of the fingers on my left hand. I have no pain on my wrists, although I did a few years ago when I was playing semi professional poker online and was using my mouse non stop for hours at a time.
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:24 AM   #4
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My spouse had no pain in his wrists. I don't know about this stuff, all I know is that sometimes things that don't seem so bad are bad or can be solved and should be checked out.
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:27 AM   #5
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I second seeing your doc (an orthopedist) to get a definitive diagnosis. He/she also could refer you to a hand therapist, so you can learn proper stretching and strengthening exercises that will help you maintain your joints longer with less pain. Also, ask your doc for his/her opinion on glucosamine supplements in your case.
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:27 AM   #6
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Get it checked out.

Arthritis is an inflamation disease, and does lots of damage before it gets to the 'agonizing' part.

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Old 10-26-2008, 09:38 AM   #7
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Another for the doctor visit.
I came down with RA at 40. Had it checked out and it is now under complete control with drugs (better living through modern pharmacuticals).
RA is a immune disease in which your own immune system attacks your own joints. The longer you wait, the more damage has happened. At some point, it is just too late.
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:50 AM   #8
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Do not wait until it is agonizing before seeing the doc. By then he/she may not be able to help much.

Isn't it better to make the appointment now and feel foolish if it turns out to be nothing rather that wish years from now that you had made the call?
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:56 AM   #9
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UGH! OK, I guess I'll go to the doctor then. I did get tested for arthritis several years ago (7-8 maybe?) when I had pretty bad tendinitis in my knees (which is now gone thank god). The test back then was negative.

My mother uses an ointment which I believe is called Volteren. She says it works great. Anyone used it?

Also, I do already take Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements which I started taking for tendonitis in my achilles tendons. I havent decided if its working at all or not yet.
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Old 10-26-2008, 11:51 AM   #10
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I second the advice to see a doctor to get a diagnosis. I know nothing about rheumatoid arthritis, but if it's osteoarthritis, don't freak out (like I did). The condition does get worse over time but in the long run we're all dead anyway. You can do marvelous things with therapy and often make the pain go away or at least become infrequent. If one thing doesn't work try another. Treatment of osteoarthritis is still somewhat of an art, not entirely science. They can tell by x-ray if you have it, but they can't tell where or why or how much it hurts (I speak of knees here).
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Old 10-26-2008, 12:01 PM   #11
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UGH! OK, I guess I'll go to the doctor then. I did get tested for arthritis several years ago (7-8 maybe?) when I had pretty bad tendinitis in my knees (which is now gone thank god). The test back then was negative.
My mother uses an ointment which I believe is called Volteren. She says it works great. Anyone used it?
Also, I do already take Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements which I started taking for tendonitis in my achilles tendons. I havent decided if its working at all or not yet.
Holy cow, Utrecht, go see a doctor before someone posts photos of advanced-stage arthritic fingers. This reminds me of JG proudly denying himself medical care or a poster proposing to go without medical insurance. Do you expect to realize long-term savings by delaying education & treatment?

Glucosamine & chondroitin have worked wonders in horses. (When our kid was riding a few years ago, they were standard supplements for dressage horses & polo ponies.) You would think the supplements would work fine on human joints, but to date its benefits have not been demonstrated in humans through any credible large-population double-blind controlled studies. Believe me, I want to be persuaded and I've been keeping an eye on the science/medicine. I have to conclude that the money saved by not buying these supplements would more than pay for the doctor's consultation.

Orthopods can recommend a number of anti-inflammatories, painkillers, and strength/conditioning exercises that can mitigate the effects of arthritis or chronic over-use syndromes. If you don't find a sympathetic & supportive orthopod, hopefully one with a few swollen joints gray hairs themself, then shop around. But they can only help you if you see them.
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Old 10-26-2008, 03:00 PM   #12
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When I went to my doctor with disabling back pain, she said, “we will have arthritis” picked up my hands, pointed to those subtle indications and said, “you probably have bumps like this up and down your spine.” X-rays show mild arthritis of the spine.

IMO, it’s very important to find out what kind of exercise is best for you. I resorted to taking prescription pain meds so that I could get out walking. One thing about the meds is that they say they are most effective if you take them before the pain gets bad. Yes, see your doctor and get the full scoop for your situation.

I would go to an MD first and then look into alternatives. PM me for a couple of alternative MD’s websites and now someone is sending me an alternative newsletter. There are many food and supplement ideas out there. But as I said, your doc can give you specifics for your condition. Last time I went to see the doc, she gave me a prescription for a high-dose once-a-week vitamin D; I would have had no idea I was deficient in that vitamin, considering it was summer.

Utrecht, I didn't have knee arthritis two years ago either and still don't, the knee pain is gone now; but the back is another story, I can live with it
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Old 10-26-2008, 06:56 PM   #13
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better living through modern pharmacuticals.
I remember, back in the 60's, when that phrase referred to a very different potential condition. Please don't destroy our fondest memories!
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Old 10-26-2008, 07:09 PM   #14
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Do go to a doctor and get tested.

I have: osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and ulnar nerve entrapment.

But at least it's all official and recorded.
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Old 10-26-2008, 07:14 PM   #15
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My father and his mother both were crippled by rheumatoid arthritis before they died - I mean the kind where your joints twist and your hands are drawn into knots. Dad's doctor told him that had he sought treatment many years earlier, a lot of the damage could have been prevented, but by the time he sought treatment, all the medicine in the world couldn't straighten out the deformity caused by this horrible illness. When my grandmother was diagnosed, I don't think there was any treatment other than mega-doses of Anacin/Excedrine. As it appears to run in families, I do take chronic aches and pains seriously. Please see a doc soon.
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Old 10-26-2008, 08:44 PM   #16
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I will go to the doctor, but for the record, the reason I avoid doctors is that Ive had considerable pain in several different joints over the past 10-12 years. Heres a rundown:

1) Had pain in my shoulder. Was told it was a sprain by one ortho. I knew better because Ive played sports all my life and know the difference between a sprain and what I was feeling. It hurt to raise my arm above level with the ground. My "sprain" didnt heal. Went to another doctor who prescribed physical therapy after taking an Xray and telling me nothing was wrong. After a few weeks of that, I demanded an MRI. Presto !....I had a torn rotator cuff which required surgery.

2) Had severe aching type pain in both knees for months. Went to 3 different orthos (one of which is the Dallas Cowboys doctor). They all said there was nothng wrong. I went to lots and lots of physical therapy that didnt help. Spent lots of money to be told that there was nothing wrong...all the while I was in pain for about 2 years. I couldnt sit with my legs bent for more than a few seconds without pain. It was obvious I had tendonitis in my patella tendons but continued to be told I was fine as if I was making it up.....spent lots of money to go to doctors who acted like I was making it up. For what purpose I wondered? Took every anti -inflammatory on the market After a few years the pain lessoned to a point of almost being gone but flares up now and then.

3) Had severe back pain. Obvious bulging disc (s). Got shots, took more anti-inflammatory. Was told to rest rest rest...in bed. Nothing worked. I finally got tired of laying around and started stretching and walkng alot. Almost instantly the pain subsided and eventually went away completely. Even now if I sit on the couch all day and watch football, my back will stiffen up. The bed rest I was told to get by the doctor was the worst thing in the world for it.

4) Had VERY severe neck pain. Was forced to sleep sitting up on my couch for over a week because I couldnt lay down. Went to the emergency room 3 seperate times when it got excruciating. Each time was told it was muscle spasms and would go away. Took muscle relaxers. Went to an ortho surgeon who sent me for an MRI. Had herniated disc that was so bad I had surgery the NEXT DAY. Surgeon told me any 2nd year medical student shouldve known what the problem was based on my symptoms. Apparently emergency room docs arent too smart.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. My luck with ortho docs hasnt been very good up to this point.
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:26 PM   #17
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I don't refer patients to orthopedists unless I think surgery may be indicated. That's primarily what they do.

The above symptoms probably warrant a trip to the primary care doc. If she/he thinks it might be rheumatoid arthritis (seems highly unlikely here) a rheumatology referral would be considered.
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Old 10-27-2008, 10:07 AM   #18
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Ten years ago, I developed chronic groin pain which is classic for hip arthritis. X rays showed a subchondral cyst (joint fluid in the porosity of the ball of my femur). I was told to stop running, playing tennis and anything else that involved pounding or I would need a hip replacement within five years. Five years ago, I had both hips x rayed and they were status quo and felt better. The doc told me to go do whatever I wanted to do. I play a lot of tennis, ski, bike, lift weights and do yoga. The reason I bring this up is that for the first year after the initial diagnosis, I did play little tennis and felt depressed about suddenly becoming a debilitated geezer. More docs need to understand that many of us will not go down or out without a fight. I went to work saving what cartilage I had left, stopping the road running and rationing the pounding to the tennis court. Yoga and the weights have helped strength and flexibility around the joints. Last winter, I developed vicious arthritic pain at the base of my thumb. The ortho injected a turkey baster size load of cortisone which did nothing and said I was on the verge of needing surgery. I figrued out that doing heavy curls had been the source of the abuse and donned a pair of gloves with wrist supports and also backed off my poundages. Mitigation of the source of the stress allowed the inflammation to cool down and I am back in business with the thumb though now a little wiser.
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Old 10-27-2008, 10:46 AM   #19
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I will go to the doctor, but for the record, the reason I avoid doctors is that Ive had considerable pain in several different joints over the past 10-12 years.
I suspect that you'll run out of joints before you run out of doctors. The status quo doesn't seem to be very satisfactory, and you don't seem to have many alternatives.

This woman has very strong opinions but she's come through a lot of physical therapy and had quite a few successes with other people. Been a big help with my aches & pains too. This index might give you more information or physical-therapy ideas for your specific joints-- an alternative rather than a stand-alone solution:
The Fitness Fixer - blog index

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I remember, back in the 60's, when that phrase referred to a very different potential condition. Please don't destroy our fondest memories!
Hey, if you have memories of this period then you weren't doing it right!
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Old 10-27-2008, 11:25 PM   #20
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I understand what you are going through, as I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis when I was a year or two older than you. I was pretty depressed for a while - so much for my fun-filled ER that I've been planning for! And I'm too young for arthritis! I started on the glucosamine and chondroitin, and they have worked wonders for me. It did take quite a while for them to kick in - several months - but my knee rarely bothers me now, and my hips and thumb joints are seldom problems. I did get tested for RA, but it was negative. My MD said that my bumpy knuckles on my fingers are classic symptoms of OA. My main problem now is that I can't sit Indian style any more - my hips bother me then. I can put up with that! Anyway, it's not the end of the world - you will find the right mix that will help you move on with your life - give it time!
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