Coping with arthritis in fingers

September 19, 2015 at 01:24 AM · Hello,

I have been diagnosed with advanced arthritis as of January 2015. The worst spots are in both hands in the thumbs and index fingers. The doctor literally told me to not do anything using my hands for few days. I honestly prefer euthanasia than to listen to this doctor. Also, this is literally impossible without being unconscious for a few days for me.

I find that the cold and dryness are the WORST for my hands, and in fact, over the summer, I would only use a/c for the feet on my car because just the vented cool hair from my car would cause quite a bit of pain.

I enjoyed the summer without these pain, and winter is around the corner and as the weather cools down, the arthritis returned with revenge. I often sit on one hand at least during lectures to rotate which hand to write notes with and to warm up the hands.

Something I noticed is that while it really hurts my hands to do anything including nothing, playing a mediocre amount(1~3hrs in a day) of violin seems to ease the pain for a few days.

Basically my hands start becoming relaxed and well warmed-up from playing, the pain goes away. I also found that playing a LOT (5~10 hrs in a day) made the pain worse for the next few days.

How do others cope with their seasonal pain with arthritis?

Replies

September 19, 2015 at 05:59 PM · I get steroid shots in each shoulder every three months. After a year or so it stops working and I take a break. I am not sure they do this for thumb area - I'd get it, too! - but it is worth asking. Beats shoulder replacement for me. Been-there-done-that with knees.

There is also RX strength cream available. This does not always work, but may take the edge off.

I find keeping in practice, starting with warmed hands, helps.

There are also anti-inflammatory meds.

September 19, 2015 at 06:41 PM · 10 hours a day? No one should be doing anything repetitive for 10 hours a day, arthritis or not!

If 1-3 hours feels good...don't do more.

Aren't you going to school full-time?

September 19, 2015 at 08:08 PM · Yes I am,

I used to practice ~5hrs a day throughout the summer, then now I'm down to maybe an hour or two per day. Arthritis struck me hard in the past week, so I've only touched my violin twice this week.

September 19, 2015 at 08:19 PM · I have minor pre-arthritis pain. I would love to spend my entire free time practicing 5 hours a day but my joints won't let me. So I do try to still put in 2-3 hours depending on how the weather affect me.

Has your doctor had you checked for Lyme disease?

September 19, 2015 at 09:31 PM · I'm not really sure what you are asking. Only you can tell how much pain you can handle. As somebody who has arthritis, I can definitively say that 5 hours of playing a day is impossible. Even if I feel fine the same day, the pain will manifest itself at some point. Aside from medical treatment, the only way to truly handle the pain and inflammation is to simply play less. Breaking up your practices into segments of a few minutes each may provide a bit of relief, but there is no miracle method of practice to get you your 5 hours. Sorry

September 19, 2015 at 11:20 PM · Jeff, I think I'm going to give a doctor a visit on Monday... I've read about the Lyme disease and I want to be sure of that.

What I actually wanted to ask for the most part is how musicians and others who play string music cope with the arthritis pain. Is it done through warming/specific massage, and etc?

September 20, 2015 at 01:05 AM · I can't speak for everybody, but my arthritis is an auto-immune condition. There is literally nothing impactful that helps me play more or minimizes pain besides less time playing. Even further, the more things get inflamed, the more my body reacts to attack the affected joints. This is a degenerative condition, and the more I play with pain, the more permanent damage my joints suffer. If your medical professional is telling you to rest for such reasons, it would be wise to listen to him/her. Even if it is not what you want to hear. Not every occupation or hobby is for everybody. If you want to power through your pain, it's your call. I don't know of anything that helps me (aside from the aforementioned shorter practices, which is only marginal help). I am at the mercy of my immune system and the effectiveness of my medication.

September 20, 2015 at 02:45 AM · I have had osteoarthritis symptoms of my left hand and knee for years. I have gotten some help by taking Glucosamine HCl with MSM tablets. Also, if you are taking a statin for high cholesterol that can make it much worse. I use the 2 of the large Kirkland "horse pills" sold by CostCo (they are inexpensive) and add one Instaflex (they are not inexpensive).

Since it seems to help you to play a moderate amount, I suggest you do a technical warm up routine for the first 30 minutes and then launch into an hour or so of the music you are studying (want to learn or improve). There is no need to overdo it, and apparently counterproductive.

Another thing that might help: switch to cello! Really!

If your problem is rheumatoid arthritis, ignore me and anyone but your doctor.

Andy

September 20, 2015 at 02:57 AM · the problem is that I have not had a family doctor in a decade. I moved around a lot, I've been going to a doctor on campus, I really don't like her, she makes "diagnosis" without even taking a look at some of the conditions. I made a formal complaint to the dean of services to get her to actually take a look at my hands.

September 20, 2015 at 11:06 AM · Having a doctor you can't communicate with and seems to lack diagnostic prowess is like having a violin teacher you cannot communicate with and lacks diagnostic and prescriptive prowess. Change that if you can.

Arthritis is nothing to mess around with and leave unchecked since the inflammation does do damage. Pain is telling you to address this. Complaining about someone who is not apt will not help you get more out of this doctor.

If you are young and already at this state of pain, swift action is in order. This is not walk-in clinic sort of stuff. It is life-time management sort of stuff. If you love violin playing, get on this now.

September 20, 2015 at 11:19 AM · I agree with the others, you need to address this issue with an appropriate doctor. You've just purchased a violin you love; that would seem to indicate you want to go on playing. Why would you mess around with a campus physician when it's a serious matter? Your hands are probably out of her league--they may be out of the league of most family practice physicians. If you are a college-age person, it's not likely to be a benign form of arthritis (I have osteo- and, while I wouldn't call it benign, it's miles better than rheumatoid). In any case, Jane is right: Pain is your body telling you to pay attention. Be as responsible for yourself as you are worried about a wolf on your C.

In the meantime, you might consider starting on an anti-inflammatory diet; it eases arthritic symptoms for many people, and doesn't require insurance to pay for it.

September 20, 2015 at 11:43 AM · I also have arthritis and fibro. If you don't like the Student Health Services doctor, you will have to find yourself a family physician that you do like. They will have to refer you to a rheumatology specialist - you can't just book an appointment with a specialist directly. If it's not an emergency...it could take months to get in to see a specialist.

I am confused. If you haven't been to a family doctor for 10 years - and the Campus doctor won't look at your hands, how do you even know it's arthritis? Never mind advanced arthritis? If you are over-playing, it could be repetitive use issues (or who knows what!). Self-diagnosis isn't useful. Not to mention it often leads to quaking yourself...which can actually cause a problem you didn't have to begin with.

My Grandmother was a text-book hypochondriac. I have first hand experience seeing that happen.

You can however, do mild hand exercises. That won't hurt anything (provided you don't overdo those either), and keep your hands limber. You can Google those.

Find a doctor. In the meantime, play less. See what happens.

September 20, 2015 at 12:19 PM · arthritis actually came up during my full medical review with the military for medical discharge.

It's mostly seasonal, and climate dependent.

The downside of free health care in Canada is that the doctors never take anything seriously because they get paid depending on how many patients they see , not by quality of their work. Also, patients are encouraged to see them even from a small scratch, literally. I've had several bad experiences. Waiting for 48 hours to get a cast on a broken leg in the emergency room, with hundreds of people lined up. Also, having to see 20 different doctors before one actually referred me to a specialist.

I have been unsuccessful finding a family doctor in quite some time, mostly because they are inaccessible in a big city like Ottawa.

September 20, 2015 at 12:28 PM · Not to mention this process which NEVER gets through:

 photo snapshot2_zpssb6wsl14.png

Someone claimed to be my "family physician" at some point along the line, and I can't un-register, because I don't even know who that's supposed to be. They just get to keep my name on the list for funding.

September 20, 2015 at 12:58 PM · I haven't lived in Ontario for years. Phone the number and get it straightened out.

I do know there are lists of physicians taking new patients available - for every province. Check with your local Health Office if you can't find it on-line.

Another option to try: walk-in clinics.

Sometimes you can find yourself a doctor you like going that route. Or - ask at a walk-in clinic. They might also have a list.

Seasonal arthritis? Gout can be seasonal, but other than feeling a little better or worse with the weather...arthritis...especially 'severe' arthritis...is an all year thing. I'm not sure what the army told you, but I'd want a 2nd opinion.

My mother had severe RA...I apparently have OA...so I kinda know what's going on, lol.

September 20, 2015 at 03:53 PM · Mine is psoriatic arthritis and is also painful year-round. I have heard of RA sufferers who say the pain is worse with weather, but that is an individual thing.

Diagnosing arthritis involves extensive bloodwork, among other things. Any doctor can throw around the term 'arthritis' but it means nothing until a specific diagnosis has been obtained. There are several types of arthritis, and they all get worse with age and time. I cannot recommend strongly enough to get a proper diagnosis from a rheumatologist and proceed with treatment so that you can slow down the degeneration.

There are some lifestyle things that can help - exercise is always good. Might have to resort to swimming for the low impact. Diet is rather important. Avoid inflammatory foods and high fructose corn syrup. Soda is evil. I have found a daily vitamin with calcium/vit D to be quite beneficial.

If you need motivation to get proper treatment,just google 'rheumatoid joint pictures'. ;0)

October 20, 2015 at 12:13 AM · Back to topic on Arthritis,

as it has been getting colder here in Ottawa, the RH has reached 34% outside, and it snowed very little bit briefly over the weekend, and I am NOT having arthritis pain.

Secret weapon: Hot cup of tea in my hands, all day, everyday.

October 20, 2015 at 09:30 AM · Do you feel completely, absolutely convinced that it is arthritis rather than repetitive-strain injury? My own experience is that the latter is rather common in musicians, especially enthusiastic once ;)

There are at least two types I know of (and probably many more) - carpal tunnel syndrome and forearm muscle overuse. The latter is generally easier to treat, the former needs to be treated as soon as possible to avoid long-term damage.

Of course you might well have arthritis, but I thought I should mention RSI just in case.

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