Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When rheumatoid arthritis (RA) flares, your body becomes a mass a pain, knuckles ache and all you want to do is lay down. But sleep isn’t a good thing; you know it will be worse in the morning, RA is a cycle of pain and more pain, pills and struggle. I’ve lived with RA for most of my life, but wasn’t diagnosed until 2008. Recently, I made a decision to break the cycle of pain; to overcome my affliction.
This series of seven articles will examine strategies we can use to lessen the agony of RA and take back control of our lives. I have no agenda here and am not a shill for some snake oil shaman, though we will speak of oils of a different kind later.
Topics we will examine include:
1. Compression gloves
2. Taking care of your feet
4. Exercise and fitness
5. Alternative therapies
6. Medical Marijuana
7. Medication and supplements
Before all else, an arthritis sufferer needs to visit a good rheumatologist. Taking RA medications is tricky. They’re dangerous substances and you need the best guidance possible. If you have RA, don’t just rely on your family physician, as good as she might be; you need to have someone that specializes in the ailment. RA is a chronic condition and you will be working with your doctor for the rest of your life. You’ll have to have an expert monitor your blood work constantly. Find someone that you trust, ask your general practitioner for recommendations, talk to your friends and family. If you aren’t comfortable with your rheumatologist, move on and find someone else.
One symptom of RA is morning stiffness and pain in your joints in the morning. The fluid that lubricates your joints is either leached out of the joint or settles and ‘gels’ in the joint and needs time to regain its viscosity. Most often, morning pain strikes your hands, your knuckles and wrists. The pain will fade throughout the day, but reoccur the next morning.
Right after Halloween, my arthritis flared and may hands became almost unusable; too much sugar, but more about that in the diet entry. I couldn’t open a bottle of water and my thumbs “popped” when I tried to grip something. Desperate, I searched for arthritis gloves on Amazon and found that they did indeed exist. On a flyer, I ordered a pair and found they do indeed help.
When my gloves arrived, my right wrist had been immobilized for several days in a brace to help alleviate the pain. I removed the brace to put on the gloves and to date haven’t put it back on. In my rough estimate, the gloves alleviate 40% of the pain and stiffness and provide support to the wrists and thumbs. Arthritis gloves are not a cure-all, but they are a valuable tool in handling the disease.
Arthritis gloves are made of stretchy material that compress and warm the joints, keeping the joint fluid in the joint without ‘gelling’. They are made to be worn 24 hours a day and can help make life almost bearable. If you find them helpful, you’ll need more than one pair, They need to be washed with Woolite or another gentle soap on a regular basis and are drip dry.
I haven’t found the perfect gloves yet, but here is an overview of the gloves I’ve tried.
Thermoskin Gloves are my favorite at the moment. The gloves are heavier than most and made of Trioxon, a space-age fabric that provides compression, yet lets moisture escape. The gloves remind me most of something one might wear in a Mixed Martial Arts bout, they are black with red lining. The standard model leaves the fingertips exposed for fine work, but cover all the knuckle joints for support. They can be worn 24 hours a day if necessary and provide the best support of the three models I’ve tested.
The gloves have two main drawbacks: They don’t breathe as easily as straight fabric gloves; my hands feel slightly damp when I remove them. Also, they seem to pick up odors easier and need to be washed on a regular basis.
Tommy Copper’s claim to fame is that copper is incorporated into the fabric of the gloves. Copper is reputed to help alleviate RA and though the science is murky, some people think it works. I’m doubtful, but found them to be effective. The Tommy Copper’s are the best looking gloves I tried. They are a black, thin, fabric-based glove that have garnered compliments from people. They don’t provide the level of support as the Thermoskin, but are comfortable enough to be worn for long periods of time.
I started with the fingerless version which provided adequate support for my palm and thumb, but did not cover my second or third knuckles, which I viewed as a drawback since they my hotspots. The full-finger model is better, but sizing is an issue. While the fingerless model fit snuggly, the full-finger version was looser, so sizing may not be consistent among models
Dr. Kay’s were the first gloves I tried. They were a revelation, my hands felt instantly better. The gloves are grey stretchy fabric and provide decent support. They are comfortable and can be worn 24 hours a day. As with the other gloves, you’ll need to wash them regularly.
The problem with the Dr. Kay’s was quality control. Stitching on one of the fingers started to unravel after a day and before the week was over, the stitching on the side of the hand had split. Because of quality control issues, I cannot recommend them.
You’ll find compression products for every part of your body: elbows, knees, ankles and wrists. Though they won’t cure your arthritis, they will help you push back the pain and use your hands in everyday life.
RA can do untold damage to your feet, so next time, we’ll discuss foot care, podiatrists and shoe selection.