Dealing with Pain Part 1: Hands, Wrists, & Fingers
"We all experience joint pain at some point during our lives and especially as we age, but we don’t have to let it become chronic or affect our quality of life."
Today, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist kicks off an important series with information to help people better manage various types of pain. Each part in this series will deal with a specific body area, and look at the most common causes of aches and pains in that area as we age. The first part in the series is about pain in the hands, wrists and fingers. We’ll learn where this pain comes from, and go over some tips to support better health and less pain.
- 07:28: Overview of Joints
- 11:59: Causes of Hand, Wrist, and Finger Pain
- 22:51: Hand, Wrist, and Finger Stretches
- 29:05: Range-of-motion Exercises For Wrists And Hands
- 41:01: Hand Massage
- 45:31: Joint Nutrition
- 52:51: Wrap-Up
We spend a lot of time talking about the damaging effects of inflammation in the body, and especially your major joints such as shoulders, back, hips, and knees. While we always need to be aware of inflammation and take steps to fight its harmful effects naturally, it’s not the only issue we need to be aware of when it comes to pain. So in this series, won’t just be about inflammation, but about those other issues as well.
Over the next five shows, Dr. Nancy will target specific areas of the body: hands, wrists, and fingers; lower legs, ankles, and feet; knees; hips; and finally, shoulders.We’ll take an in-depth look at what causes pain and discomfort in joints, muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons, and bones.
Also, over the course of this series, you’ll learn the most effective exercises, stretches, foods and other dietary support aids, and lifestyle tips to help relieve (and avoid) common, age-related conditions that can lead to excess wear and tear, joint pain, decreased flexibility, weakness, lack of mobility and an overall decreased quality of life.
If you are like the majority of adults in the U.S., chances are you are dealing with some form of ache, pain, or discomfort that is affecting your quality of life — maybe your back, maybe your hips or knees, your shoulders or neck... maybe even your whole body just generally aches some days. Most of these pains tend to be a result of injury or general age-related deterioration if we go with the national averages, but that doesn’t mean you have to remain in pain. Sure, we all know we can’t turn back the hands of time, but we can certainly take proactive steps to make sure our joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments are in better shape — hopefully much better shape over time — and are ready to respond when we need them most!
We are going to kick off this series by taking a look at a part of your body in which 10 million Americans report feeling pain and discomfort on a daily basis: the hands, wrists, and fingers. These are a really common and daily source of everyday discomfort, aches, and pains for millions of people.
Overview of Joints
Before we jump into the specifics of our wrist, hand, and finger pain, let’s take a look at a few specific things you will hear Dr. Nancy talk about repeatedly during this series — specifically, areas of the joints that really impact the health and functionality of each specific joint.
A joint is basically the place where two bones meet. That’s how we are able to move; our joints allow for mobility. Each one of our joints has specific tissues or fluids that serve specific functions, including:
- Cartilage — a type of tissue that covers the surface of a bone at a joint and reduces the friction of movement within a joint.
- Synovial membrane — a tissue that lines the joint and seals it into a joint capsule. The synovial membrane secretes a clear, synovial fluid around the joint to lubricate it.
- Synovial fluid — a clear, sticky fluid that has an eggwhite–like consistency that’s secreted by your synovial membrane and reduces friction between the cartilage of joints during movement. Think of it as the WD-40 of the joints; the critical lubricant of the joint that makes it all run smoothly.
- Ligaments — tough, elastic bands of connective tissue that surrounds the joint to give support and limit the joint's movement; ligaments connect bones together.
- Tendons — another type of tough connective tissue on each side of a joint attached to muscles that control movement of the joint; tendons connect muscles to bones.
- Bursae — sacs filled with that precious synovial fluid between bones and ligaments that help cushion the friction in a joint. You’ve probably heard the term bursitis, right? That’s what happens when you have inflammation of these fluid-filled sacs (your bursae) that cause pain and discomfort.
We have six different types of joints in our body: ball and socket, hinge joint, pivot joint, ellipsoidal joint, saddle joints, and gliding joints.
The wrists are ellipsoidal joints, which allow all types of movement except pivoting; and your fingers are hinge joints, which only allow pivot and straightening movements.
Causes of Hand, Wrist, and Finger Pain
Over time, and as we age, it’s very common to develop pain in our hands and wrists. This can be due to repetitive use as a part of your job — maybe you type on a computer, or work as a hairstylist or carpenter — you know you much you rely on your hands and fingers for your job.
Or maybe a hobby — playing the piano or hand sewing — has taken a toll on your wrists, hands, and fingers. It could even be caused by holding on to your phone, texting, and posting on social media. We really don’t even know the long term toll that current communication trends will take on our hands and fingers yet. Even if you don’t take part in these jobs or hobbies, there are several common conditions that affect the muscles, bones, and joints of your hands, wrists, and fingers, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, affects nearly all of us at some point as we age. However, women are usually affected more than men, and often at an earlier age. X-rays reveal joint damage in approximately 60% of adults over the age of 60, and 80% to 90% of patients over age 75. If you have osteoarthritis, especially in your hands, you know how disruptive and painful it can be.
People often associate arthritis primarily with our hips and knees, which is also very common, but arthritis is most commonly found in our hands, causing chronic joint pain, weakness, and limited range of motion.
Another form of arthritis that can affect your hands and fingers is rheumatoid arthritis, which is the most common inflammatory condition. However, unlike osteoarthritis, it is actually an autoimmune disorder that attacks your joints —specifically your synovium, which is the tissue that lines and nourishes all of your joints and tendons.
With rheumatoid arthritis the synovium in your joints actually responds by growing, which damages your bones, your joints, and surrounding soft tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA for short, typically starts in the hands and wrists, and will commonly affect the same joint on each side of your body, before spreading to other joints in the body.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis share many similar symptoms, but rheumatoid arthritis often causes more long-lasting morning stiffness and leads to more swelling and redness of the joints. This inflammation of the soft tissues surrounding the joints can eventually result in deformities that limit your ability to use your hands.
Another common condition causing pain and discomfort is carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’ve never experienced this, consider yourself very fortunate! Carpal tunnel is an extremely painful condition in the hands and fingers caused by compression of a major nerve — the median nerve — right where it passes over the carpal bones through a passage at the front of the wrist, alongside the flexor tendons of the hand.
As this happens, carpal tunnel also affects the synovium that lubricates the tendons that move your fingers, causing swelling that pressures the nerves and results in sensations of tingling, numbness, or burning sensations, and weakness in the hands. Carpal tunnel is often caused by repetitive movements over a long period of time, or by fluid retention in the wrists.
Carpal tunnel syndrome tends to gets worse over time, so recognizing it early and preventative treatment are very important. Early on, symptoms can often be relieved with simple measures like temporarily avoiding certain activities (especially those that require repetitive movement), eating to reduce inflammation in your body (this is critical), and participating in regular hand and wrists stretching and exercises.
There is also one more, often overlooked condition that causes hand and finger pain: fibromyalgia. For those of you who have heard the term and don’t know what it is, the condition is somewhat controversial. Mayo Clinic defines it thus:
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Fibromyalgia often causes widespread joint pain and can also be linked to brain fog, headaches, and numbness and tingling that often cause it to be confused with many other conditions that have overlapping symptoms.
While it doesn’t cause permanent damage like arthritis, many people say fibromyalgia pain is actually worse and more intense than pain associated with arthritis.
So these are a few of the top reasons behind hand pain as we age. Of course there are more, but this covers a good percentage of the causes of age-related pain. To reduce your risk of developing these and other similar conditions in your hands, wrists, and fingers it’s important to make sure to stretch and exercise these areas on a regular basis.
Following are a few stretches that will help; then we’ll talk about essential nutrients that can help with preventing joint pain, and a few everyday lifestyle tips to help keep your hands and wrists healthier and happier!
Hand, Wrist, and Finger Stretches
It may sound funny to talk about exercise for your hands and fingers, but this part of your body needs stretching and exercise just like every other part. Yet for some reason we never seem to think about exercising our hands and fingers when we talk about working out.
Luckily, exercising and stretching your hands and fingers is pretty easy. It doesn’t require any equipment or a gym membership, and you can get a hand workout pretty much anywhere — at home, at work, before you go to sleep, or right now, while your watching this show! Like any great workout, it’s important to start a great hand and wrist workout with a good stretch:
- Stretch your fingers out so that your palms are spread open, facing down. Spread your fingers as far apart as you can.
- Flip your hands over so your palms are up, keeping your fingers stretched and flex your wrists down toward the ground.
- Use your right hand to deepen the extension on your left wrist, gently pulling your fingers down. Do the same on the other side.
- Relax your fingers, flip your hands back over so your palms are facing down, and stretch your fingers out one more time.
- Flex your wrists up this time, toward your body.
- Use your right hand to deepen the stretch on your left wrist by gently pulling it further toward your body. Do the same on the other side.
- End the stretch by rotating your thumbs; remember to rotate them both forward and backward.
Every time you do these, do 3 sets of each.
Range-of-motion Exercises For Wrists And Hands
Your muscles and tendons help move your joints through arcs of motion, like when you bend and straighten your fingers. If your normal range of motion is impaired or you experience pain when doing normal, everyday activities — picking up your keys, opening a bottle or jar, or typing on a keyboard — these exercises will help strengthen your muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your wrists, hands, and fingers by moving them through their normal range of motion.
Wrist Extension and Flexion
- Place your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding with your hand hanging off the edge of the table, palm down.
- Move your hand upward until you feel a gentle stretch.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat the same motions with your elbow bent at your side, palm facing up.
- Stand or sit with your arm at your side with the elbow bent to 90 degrees, palm facing down.
- Rotate your forearm, so that your palm faces up and then down.
Wrist Ulnar/Radial Deviation
- Support your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding or on your knee, thumb upward.
- Move your wrist up and down through its full range of motion.
- Begin with your thumb positioned outward.
- Move your thumb across your palm and back to the starting position.
Hand/Finger Tendon Glide
- Start with your fingers extended straight out.
- Make a hook fist; return to a straight hand.
- Make a full fist; return to a straight hand.
- Make a straight fist; return to a straight hand.
- Interlace your fingers in front of your body.
- Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, move your interlaced hands in a figure eight motion.
- Allow your wrists to rotate fully so that each hand is alternately on top of the other.
- Perform this exercise for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Then repeat.
- While seated, lift your arms over your head and interlace your fingers with your palms together.
- With your fingers interlaced, turn your palms up until they are facing the ceiling. You can keep your arms slightly bent or straighten them.
- Hold the stretch.
- Bring your arms down, and then repeat.
- While seated, place your palms face up under a desk or table.
- Press upwards against the bottom of the desk.
- Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
This might seem like a strange exercise, but it really helps to build strength in the muscles that run from your wrists to your inner elbows.
Tennis Ball Squeeze
- Squeeze a tennis ball or stress ball firmly for 5 to 10 seconds.
Work through one set of 10 reps for all of these Range of Motion exercises at least once a day.
Next, give your hands the royal treatment! Dr. Nancy dedicated several past shows to the numerous health benefits of massage. Don’t forget your wrists, hands, and fingers need some love too!
Even though a hand massage may seem simple and maybe even unimportant, it provides a whole host of health benefits, including:
- Boosting your circulation
- Increasing your flexibility by improving mobility and easing joint movement, particularly in older people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis; and
- Relieving pain from chronic issues especially with osteoarthritis. It can also has been shown to alleviate pain from repetitive motion, including carpal tunnel.
While it’s nearly impossible to give yourself a full body massage, you can always give your hands and wrists a quick little self-massage whenever you need it. We recommend giving yourself a hand and wrist massage at least one or two times a week, or as often as needed. There are also a number of organic essential oils that soothe muscles and joints, not to mention softening the skin! Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Peppermint are just a few wonderful oils for soothing muscles and sore joints.
How to perform a hand massage:
- Start by relaxing your hand by rubbing your thumb in circular movements over your palm, begin in the middle and work your way outward.
- Next, wrap your hand around each finger one by one and gently rotate at the joint, as if using a joystick on an old school arcade machine.
- Then, starting at the base of each of your fingers, rub upward in small clockwise circles until you reach the tip of each.
- Use gentle pressure in small circles all over the palms, pads and backs of the hand, working down to the wrist.
Now that is how you treat yourself a top-notch hand massage!
At Smarter Nutrition, we talk a lot about how damaging inflammation is to your body, and especially your joints. Dr. Nancy always recommends a steady, consistent diet of inflammation-fighting foods to aid in preventing a number of chronic health conditions, including joint pain.
But we sometimes tend to forget that our joints are just like other essential parts of our body — like our brain, heart, muscles, and bones — and like each of these essential parts of our body, our joints have specific nutritional needs. We need to make sure we are constantly supplying our joints with healthy, natural sources of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that not only disrupt the cycle of inflammation, but also support healthy collagen production for your cartilage, lubricates your joints (remember that important synovial fluid), and helps to reduce inflammation and swelling: the 3 critical elements of joint nourishment.
You can help nourish your joints by eating plenty of citrus fruit for vitamin C, pineapple and papaya for bromelain, bone broth for collagen, turmeric for curcumin and inflammation-fighting natural components, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocados for lubricating essential fatty acids. We should do this on a regular basis, but even with doing that consistently, it can still be hard to get all the joint nutrients you need on a regular daily basis.
So, in addition to stretching, exercising, and massaging your hands, and as a way to supplement your diet for healthier joints, try supplementing with Smarter Nutrition’s Joint Food. It’s the first real joint food specifically formulated to relieve joint discomfort and promote flexibility, all directly supporting your joint cartilage and synovial fluid, among other things. Yes, addressing inflammation daily with Smarter Curcumin is very important, but Smarter Joint food covers those other important aspects of joint health. Created by world-renowned joint doctor, Dr. John Hahn, Joint Food contains seven clinically proven ingredients, including:
- Chicken collagen — the number one collagen for building healthy joint cartilage
- MSM — short for methylsulfonylmethane, which is a natural compound found in healthy joints and essential for preventing painful calcium deposits in your joints
- Vitamin C — an essential component of collagen synthesis and regeneration of new joint cartilage, plus powerful antioxidant and inflammation fighter in its own right
- Curcumin (from turmeric) — to relieve symptoms associated joint discomforting inflammation, allowing for faster healing
- Bromelain — a super powerful enzyme found in pineapples that helps break down the unhealthy proteins and waste resulting from inflammation;
- CMO (Cetyl myristoleate) — a unique fatty acid referred to as the WD-40 of joint lubrication to relieve and lubricate the joints. CMO is known as an immunomodulator, which regulates your immune system and supports the body as it fights inflammation
- Lipase — an enzyme that helps ensure that CMO is more fully absorbed by the joints for improved lubrication.
Dr. Hahn and his team developed Joint Food after discovering that most other joint supplements were either just providing ingredients to temporarily hide or mask the pain, or they were covering only one aspect of joint health and nourishment. Dr. Hahn realized people simply do not get the nutrients from their diets that joints need to heal, recover and be healthy, especially as they age.
This supplement has proven that it really works with not only a major clinical trial that showed less joint discomfort and stiffness, along with increased mobility in on;y weeks, it also has hundreds of thousands of users — with people living ache-free, mobile and active lives for over 20 years with Dr. Hahn’s joint food supplement, now part of the Smarter Nutrition line.
We covered a lot of information during our first show in Dr. Nancy’s pain series. We all experience joint pain at some point during our lives and especially as we age, but we don’t have to let it become chronic or affect our quality of life. Today, we specifically focused on keeping the wrists, hands, and fingers healthy and pain-free.
We discussed the most common conditions that cause pain in your wrists, hands, and fingers, including: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and even fibromyalgia. While all of these can be debilitating and really affect your quality of life, a regular series of stretches, range of motion exercises, and self-massage can help keep your hands and fingers flexible, strong, and pain-free.
We also introduced you to Smarter Joint Food, the first real joint nourishment supplement that contains clinically proven natural ingredients, and does more than just mask pain. It actually nourishes and supports your joints and cartilage and keeps them healthy, flexible, and lubricated, while naturally reducing those aches and discomforts we all know too well.
We hope you found today’s show helpful and informative! Stay tuned for part 2 of our pain series, where we will talk about how to address the most common conditions that cause pain in the knees.