The treatment set forth in this blog can be used not only for the treatment of osteoarthritis, but for general hand care and maintenance.
First Things First - What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is one the most common types of arthritis that affects millions of people. It occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine.
Ouch! What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of osteoarthritis may include a grinding feeling or a crunchy sound when joints move (crepitus), less range of motion in affected joints, joint pain and stiffness, and swelling. Osteoarthritis of the hand occurs more frequently in certain spots:
- In the joint located at the base of the thumb, where the thumb meets the wrist. You may have bumps or bony knobs located near the site of the arthritis. The pain will be deep and achy.
- In the joint at the end of the finger closest to the nail. Bumps called Heberden's nodes might show up there.
- In the joint in the middle of the finger. This spot gets bumps called Bouchard's nodes.
Diagnosis - Oh Dread.
Osteoarthritis of the hand can be diagnosed by your medical doctor. He/She will conduct a medical exam and may order an x-ray or a bone scan. X-rays can show changes in the bone and the development of bone spurs. Bone scans can show arthritis before the changes show up on x-rays.
Conventional Western Treatment
Conventional treatment of osteoarthritis of the hand may include medication, splints, rest, heat/cold therapy, physical/occupational therapy, topical treatments, steroid injections, and surgery.
Treatment with Chinese Medicine
In Chinese medicine, osteoarthritis of the hand is referred to as "Bi" (pain) Syndrome.
There are many types of Bi syndrome based on the symptoms. For example, if you experience pain and stiffness in the hand joints that is worse in cold weather, it is called "Cold Bi". If you experience swelling and inflammation in the joints that is worsened with heat, it is called "Hot Damp Bi". Your symptoms, also referred to as "patterns", determine your treatment plan.
Healing Modalities used at Bodyscapes
Ellie combines many different modalities to alleviate the pain and discomfort of osteoarthritis of the hand. Some of the therapies used may include:
- Massage therapy
- Topical ointments/liniments infused with herbs
- Moist heat therapy/cold therapy
- Moxibustion (burning of an herb near acupuncture points)
- Electrical stimulation (micro-current)
- Paraffin hand bath (coming soon)
- Referral to an occupational/physical therapist
Massaging the hands helps to relax the muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the joints. It also helps to move excess fluid that surround the joints. This excess fluid (also referred to as "dampness") can thwart circulation and cause your joints to have less mobility.
Herb-infused massage oils may be used to promote circulation and reduce swelling.
Acupuncture works on a deeper level. It causes your own body's pain relieving mechanism to produce endorphins. Acupuncture also helps to circulate Qi and blood to the deeper recesses of the joints and remove stagnation. Other points on the body may be needled to promote longevity and boost your vital Qi.
In addition, moxibustion and moist heat applications help to warm the hands and increase the flow of Qi and blood.
Not a Cure, but a Treatment
There aren't any treatments, conventional or alternative, that can "cure" osteoarthritis of the hands. What one should aim for is a treatment plan that will slow down or halt the progression of this degenerative disease. When the function of your hands becomes diminished, it diminishes your quality of life. Be proactive! Learn to love your hands.
Give me a high five for healthy hands!