Because rheumatoid arthritis is a condition affecting joints and bones, it’s important to make sure there is blood flowing through the area in order to avoid pain and stiffness.
You also want to keep the muscles in your wrist, hands, and forearms strong because muscle supports the bones and joints in your hand while facilitating movement.
At the end of the day, nutrition works best when nutrients are being pumped into the affected areas, and the best way for that to happen is through exercise.
Now, although I’d always recommend a full body exercise program to get the blood moving all over and build general strength, there are a few spot-specific exercises you can try to ease the pain and improve the circulation and range of motion in your hands and wrists.
- Start with your hand in a relaxed position with your fingers and thumbs straightened. Bend your thumb across your palm and try to touch the tip to the bottom of your pinky finger. If you can’t get it to touch, that’s okay, just go as far as you can. Return your thumb to the starting position and complete multiple repetitions on each hand.
- Hold your hand straight with your fingers extended and touching together. Bend the ends and middle joints of the fingers, while keeping your knuckles straight. In a slow and smooth motion, bring the fingers back to the starting position and repeat multiple controlled repetitions with each hand.
- Hold your fingers and hand like you were going in for a handshake, but with your forearm and wrist resting on a flat surface. Bring your fingers in to form a gentle fist and bring your thumb over top. Don’t squeeze the fist. Open your hand and repeat multiple repetitions for each hand.
- Hold your hand out with your fingers close together and slowly bend your fingers to a “C” shape, as if you were holding a glass or bottle. Slowly straighten your fingers and repeat the movement for more repetitions on each hand.
- Hold your fingers and hand straight, and bend your index finger to meet your thumb and create an “O” shape—like what you do when you give the “A O.K.” gesture. Follow by touching your thumb to each one of your fingertips and go back and forth multiple times with each hand, straightening your fingers after each finger repetition.
- Put your hand flat onto a surface with your fingers and thumb close together. Move your thumb away from the rest of the hand and follow with each finger. Do it a few times in both directions with each hand.
These movements should assist in loosening up your hands and making them more mobile and flexible, while helping to relieve some pain. You can also try wrist curls, with or without resistance, to work on your wrist and forearm.
If you elect to use resistance, select the weight based on your strength. Holding a can of vegetables might work, or perhaps if you’re a little stronger, a two-and-a-half- or five-pound dumbbell would be effective.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis so adapting your lifestyle to treat the symptoms is highly recommended, and required, if you elect to avoid prescription anti-inflammatories.
By adapting your diet to feature more foods that fight inflammation and practicing strength and mobility movements, you can provide a natural form of treatment to ease the pain and stiffness caused by arthritis.
Paturel, A., “The Ultimate Arthritis Diet,” Arthritis Foundation web site, 2014; http://www.arthritistoday.org/what-you-can-do/eating-well/arthritis-diet/the-arthritis-diet.php, last accessed March 7, 2014.