Until our hands begin to become painful we rarely think about the activities they perform. The joints of your hands are smaller than your knees or shoulders, allowing us to reach into tight spaces, pinch, and manipulate objects. Your joints are supported by ligaments which connect bone to bone and stop the joints from moving into directions they shouldn’t go. They provide support for the joint, allowing the muscle to move the joint correctly. Throughout our lifetime joints can be stressed during activities like carrying a grocery bag, wringing out a washcloth, or twisting off a bottle cap. These activities can stretch ligaments and wear out cartilage in your joints resulting in inflammation and pain. There are simple strategies you can use to protect your joints which will reduce pain during daily tasks.
Hand surgeon John M. Erickson, MD answers your questions about the disease called Gout.
Gout is a common type of inflammatory arthritis typically presenting with a red, hot, swollen, extremely painful joint. Gout frequently affects joints in the big toe, ankle or knee but can happen elsewhere. Gout can also involve the fingers, wrist and elbow. A “gout attack” usually starts suddenly and the pain increases rapidly. Because of the skin redness, warmth, and pain intensity, gout attacks can be difficult to distinguish from infection.
What is gout?
A gout attack is caused when uric acid normally circulating in the blood deposits in joints or soft tissues and forms crystals. When the body reacts to the crystals it creates a painful inflammatory reaction. Uric acid is naturally produced in the body. It is a normal breakdown product of a chemical in many foods called purines. Our bodies remove uric acid through the urine. Gout occurs when there is either too much uric acid produced in the body or too little being removed by the kidneys. Gout attacks can cause joint damage over time. Bumps or nodules of uric acid can develop around the joints in long-term gout; these nodules are called tophi.
Joint replacement surgery is a procedure in which bone and structures that line the joint are removed and replaced with new parts. This procedure is necessary when the articular cartilage (the substance on the surface of a bone) wears out or is damaged, which means the bones will no longer glide smoothly against one another. It may also stem from abnormal joint fluid.
The new parts may be made of metal, plastic, or materials that are carbon-coated. They allow the joints to move again without pain, increase range of motion, and can improve the look of the joints. Finger joints, knuckle joints, and wrist joints are commonly replaced.
After joint replacement surgery, you will most likely work with a hand therapist and could possibly wear a splint. However, with this procedure, there are always risks. There could be an infection, or the implant could fail, causing more joint pain. The implant could also wear out over time, resulting in the need for another surgery. In addition, vessels, nerves or other structures near the surgery site could be damaged. Talk to your doctor about the risks of joint replacement surgery before agreeing to the procedure.
For this post, we are sharing a video that demonstrates many techniques you can use on a daily basis to protect your joints. In past posts, we’ve discussed joint protection and gave some examples and illustrations of this. (See Protecting Your Joints and Living With(out) Thumb Pain.)
The video below shows some of those examples in action. The video has no sound, so don’t worry about turning up the volume. As you watch, you will be given some practical pointers. There are some questions in the video, so put on your thinking cap and see what ideas you come up with to take care of your joints.
After watching the video, you may have questions about specific activities and how to make changes to decrease your joint pain. Talking to a certified hand therapist can help you apply these principles to your specific activities, which can help you to keep doing what you want in life.