In the Fall of 2016, I started experiencing pain, tingling, and numbness in my arms and hands. It was both sides from the shoulders all the way down to my fingertips. At night the tingling would wake me up after only a couple of hours of sleep. I would lie awake with so much discomfort, that I couldn’t go back to sleep for a long time.
When I woke up in the morning, I was unable to make a fist with my right hand for several hours. In fact the best I could do was bend my 5 fingers on the right hand a little bit. Left hand was better because it would almost close.
I also had *a lot* of trouble turning a door knob to open a door. Sometimes I couldn’t open a door at all because of the pain in my wrists. I couldn’t carry heavy bags with either hand, and the pain in my wrists prevented me from lifting anything even a little heavy.
I did the best I could with the discomfort by wearing a wrist and forearm brace to lift heavy oI bjects, to rest my forearms, wrists, and hands, or while on the computer. I also slept on two folded blankets at night to cushion my aching limbs so that I could stay asleep longer.
I saw my primary care physician in April 2017 and after an examination, she told me that I had carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, neuritis, and osteoarthritis. She added that over time and with some care, the carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and neuritis should go away, but the osteoarthritis will only get worse. The best I could do is slow it down, but it will never go away or improve.
In July 2017, I went to see a hand specialist, who took x-rays of both hands. I wanted to know for sure and absolute if I really have osteoarthritis. He said, yes, I definitely do, but not very much — yet. Overall, the bones in my hands looked healthy and strong except for the top joint in my right little finger that showed some wear causing my little finger to permanently bend at that joint. There were also a few cysts (signs of osteoarthritis) in both hands, but not much else.
I experienced a lot of pain given how good my x-rays looked, but the doctor said that was normal (I was skeptical).
He gave me a prescription for hand therapy. I asked him if after doing hand therapy for some time if I would be able to reduce the swelling in my fingers enough so that I could start wearing my rings again. He said that it is is very, very possible.
In August 2017 I retired from my job as a technical writer because I felt that being on a keyboard all day was at the root of my shoulder, arm, wrist, hand, and finger problems. This way, I would remove what I thought was the cause and focus on whatever cure I might be able to accomplish. I have to say I am very happy with the results so far.
In August 2018, I found that I could get my rings on my fingers again.
I practice yoga every day, and have the book Yoga for Arthritis – The Complete Guide by Loren Fishman. The almost daily practice of hand therapy combined with my weekly yoga class, daily home yoga practice, and the advice in Dr. Fishman’s book, have helped so much that today my carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and neuritis have all resolved. My discomfort from osteoarthritis is now minimal and my dexterity has improved quite a lot.
Diet and Supplements
I also made a few changes to my diet towards a more anti-inflammatory diet, and adopted some herbs and supplements as suggested in Dr. Susan Blum’s book Healing Arthritis: Your 3-Step Guide to Healing Arthritis Naturally.
Hand therapy is wonderful. It strengthens your wrists, hands, and fingers, reduces the pain, and increases dexterity. To see results you have to do it every day (with only a few misses). At least that was the case for me.
Hand therapy consists of simple exercises for your wrists, hands, and fingers. Once you learn the exercises, it takes only a few minutes to do them all. I often do them while doing things like watching television, sitting in a waiting room, or watching a movie.
Hand exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support the hand joints. See Ten Ways to Exercise Hands and Fingers for some exercise suggestions.
Soaking your hands in warm water for ten minutes or so before beginning exercises can warm them up and increase flexibility.
Treating your hands with a warm paraffin wax bath can also be very helpful. Everything you need for a warm paraffin wax (tub and paraffin) can be purchased online or at many pharmacies. See The Best Paraffin Baths for Soothing Arthritis Aches and Pains.
An extra bonus of the hand therapy, is that my therapist custom made splints for my worst fingers. I had one made for my bent little finger on the right hand. You wear the splints at night to immobilize the finger(s) to reduce swelling. I also found they help straighten fingers that are not terribly bent. I still use the one for my little finger daily to keep it straight and help maintain straightness even when I’m not wearing it. The finger is not perfect, but much straighter now than when I started.
Even though the hand therapist told me to be careful and gentle with my wrists, hands, and fingers and to not push myself, I found that gradually pushing my limits slowly over time helped to lessen the pain and increase flexibility and dexterity.
Instead of slowing down the progression of my symptoms, I experienced less and less pain and swelling over time, and my symptoms stopped flaring up. It seemed that from a symptoms standpoint, that I was actually getting better and not just slowing down the progression.
I massaged my hands with olive oil to which I added drop or two of oregano and thyme oil. That would be about 1/3 C olive oil with a drop or two each of oregano and thyme oil. Alternately, you could use a drop or two of just oregano or just thyme oil, or just use olive oil. I personally found that adding the oregano oil was very soothing.
My body absorbed the oils very slowly, so I ended up massaging my wrists, fingers, and hands for a long time while watching TV (for example). I would gently press and massage where I felt pain until the pain gradually worked itself out. I would also flex my wrists, hands, and fingers in different ways until I felt a little pain, and gently held the position and/or massaged the area. Gradually over a few days or a week or so I managed to work the pain out and regain some flexibility and dexterity.
To further improve dexterity, do things like picking up and handling coins, counting change, or anything else that involves handling a number of small things. Experiment and see what works best for your particular situation.
How I’m doing Now
- I can now sleep through the night without pain waking me up.
- I do not need to sleep on top of folded blankets.
- I can turn doorknobs and open most doors unless the door itself is very heavy.
- I can carry bags with my hands, although if they are really heavy, I have to use my arms and carry them against my torso.
- I can make a complete fist with both hands first thing in the morning.
- My wrists, hands, and fingers are still stiff, but the pain is now minimal.
- Dexterity in my fingers is much better than it was, but not as good as before. At least not yet.
- I can spend time on the computer keyboarding again (how else could I have written this?). I do have to limit the time because the stiffness creeps back the longer I keyboard. But, when I stop and stretch my hands, the discomfort recedes.
- I use a large mouse when I keyboard. It’s large enough to comfortably support my hand without strain.
- I have a much easier time handling small things like putting coins away and making change.
I plan to continue my program forever if that’s what it takes. I believe I can continue to reduce the pain and stiffness, increase my manual dexterity, and make myself stronger in my hands, arms, and shoulders.