Arthritis in the hands is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs as a result of the breakdown of the cartilage that support the bone structure.
Since we use our hands and fingers in most activities, arthritis in the hands can be a cause of discomfort and uneasiness. Swollen fingers, joint inflammation, stiffness and pain are some of the symptoms of hand arthritis.
Advancements in the medical field have led to the development of many methods for controlling the various arthritis symptoms. Along with medications, you can also try some easy yet highly effective natural remedies to improve the condition of your fingers and hands.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for arthritis in the hands. Also, consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
1. Ice Pack
Cold therapy is good for those suffering from hand arthritis. You can use ice packs, a plastic bag filled with crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables.
Regular application of ice packs on the affected hands and fingers will lessen irritation and reduce soreness. However, it is important to bear in mind that different people may respond differently to cold therapy.
Simply put the ice pack on the affected area for a few minutes and then repeat. Continue this home treatment for about 20 minutes, several times a day.
Apply the cold compress to only one or two joints at a time, and be sure to put a thin towel between the ice pack and the skin to prevent frostbite.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory and alkaline-forming properties that help reduce pain and stiffness in the hands from arthritis.
- Drink a glass of warm water mixed with one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar and some honey every day.
- Alternatively, mix one-quarter or one-half teaspoon of cayenne pepper in one cup of warm apple cider vinegar. Soak the painful joint in it for about 15 minutes and then rinse it off. Repeat daily until you see improvement.
Ginger contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation. You can add this herb in your foods and also drink ginger tea to derive its benefits.
To make ginger tea:
- Cut up a small piece of ginger.
- Boil it in one cup of water for 10 minutes.
- Strain and drink this tea two or three times a day until you get relief.
4. Honey and Cinnamon
The combination of honey and cinnamon powder is a good natural way to treat arthritis in hands and help relax stiff muscles due to their excellent healing properties.
Also, honey has antiseptic qualities, while cinnamon has good anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Mix one tablespoon of honey and one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder.
- Eat this mixture every morning on an empty stomach for several weeks or until you get encouraging results.
5. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is good for reducing the stiffness, inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. It is a rich source of magnesium which is important for bone mineralization; most arthritis patients have demineralized bones. Moreover, magnesium helps decrease nerve pains.
- Mix two cups of Epsom salt in warm bath water
- Soak your hands in it for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Do this three times a week for several weeks or until you are satisfied with the results.
6. Oil Massage
There is a strong connection between olive oil and inflammation caused by arthritis.
A special compound known as oleocanthal present in olive oil helps prevent the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes.
- Olive oil can be used as a massage oil for your hands and fingers. Add a few drops of lavender oil to two to four tablespoons of warm olive oil and massage the affected area with gentle strokes to alleviate discomfort and inflammation.
- You can also use olive oil for cooking food to help reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is another popular ingredient for treating hand arthritis. Turmeric also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
- Add one teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of hot milk along with a little honey and drink it once daily. You can also try the spiced turmeric milk (recipe here).
- Alternatively, heat a quart of water, add one tablespoon of turmeric powder and boil the solution for 10 minutes. Allow it to cool and then drink it daily.
Garlic is another effective ingredient for treating arthritis in the hands. It has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
It contains sulfur that relieve joint pain and inflammation. Plus, the selenium present in garlic has antirheumatic effects.
- Eat garlic on a regular basis, either in raw or cooked form as per your preference.
- You can also fry two garlic cloves (chopped) in two tablespoons of mustard oil. Turn off the heat and allow the oil to cool until it is comfortably warm. Finally, apply it on the affected area and gently massage with it. Repeat the process twice daily until you see improvement.
9. Fenugreek Seeds
Research indicates that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of fenugreek, also known as methi, may help treat inflammation associated with arthritis.
- Soak one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in water overnight.
- The next morning, eat the seeds and discard the water.
- Do this daily for a few months.
10. Castor Oil
Castor oil has powerful medicinal and curative powers. The component known as ricinoleic acid present in castor oil has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help a lot to get relief from arthritis pain.
- Gently massage some castor oil on the affected area. Do this twice a day to reduce pain.
- You can also boil two tablespoons of castor oil and then add it to a glass of fresh orange juice. Drink this juice before eating your breakfast daily, and within weeks you will notice an improvement in your condition.
Caution: Castor oil also works as a laxative so not drink too much castor oil or for too long.
To conclude, along with these home remedies, you also need to follow your doctor’s advice. Exercises and physical therapies will also surely help you have better joint movement in your fingers and hands.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Daniel Zanotti, MD (Orthopedic Surgeon)
What is the best exercise to relieve arthritis pain in the hands?
The best exercise to help arthritis in the hands involves stretching to maintain mobility. We advise patients to massage the hands, especially the thumb. Thumb arthritis can be very disabling, as human thumbs provide us the ability to grasp, hold and manipulate things that other animals cannot.
Massage helps to loosen the tissues and maintain flexibility that is lost due to arthritis. Touching the tip of the thumb to each digit can help with a range of motions and mobility. Gentle squeezing exercises also help to improve strength.
Is drinking too much coffee bad for arthritis in the hands?
There are many ongoing studies regarding the effect of caffeine on health. While it has not been shown as a cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis or gout, it may increase inflammation in joints. As with any item, we encourage moderation with caffeine as all of its effects are unknown. Moderate caffeine intake (less than 2-3 cups of coffee per day) has not definitively shown to help or worsen arthritis.
Is arthritis a permanent condition?
Arthritis is a permanent condition. Simply put, arthritis occurs when the smooth cartilage surface of a joint is roughened. It can slowly progress over years, with the smooth surface becoming frayed, roughened and even devoid of cartilage eventually.
When the roughened or bare surface of one bone touches another bone, the result is pain, inflammation and deformity to the joint. Once the process starts, it cannot be reversed. The process can be however slowed. Losing weight, minimizing inflammation and avoiding excessive trauma to the joints can lead to improved cartilage health.
Is it true that eggplants, potatoes, pepper and tomatoes are bad for arthritis?
There are conflicting studies on particular foods affecting arthritis. Some studies suggest that vegetables in the Nightshade family such as eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes can increase joint inflammation.
These foods contain a chemical called solanine, which may cause some patients to experience joint pain. Again, in moderation, it is not clear if these foods do cause harm. However, experimenting with avoidance of these types of food may help some patients.
Does hot compress have the same benefits as the cold compress for arthritis relief?
Lots of patients ask about heat and cold for their arthritic joints. Heat helps tissues to relax and loosen. It can be helpful when working on stretching and exercises which promote joint mobility.
Cold helps to decrease inflammation. It can lessen swelling and fluid build-up within arthritic joints. We generally tell people to use heat when starting exercises to help with stiff joints, but to always use cold compress after exercise (or at the end of the day) to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Please provide some tips to help our readers relieve arthritis pain in their hands.
In general, we advise patients to take care of their hands as best as possible. Repetitive heavy gripping or lifting can damage the small joint of the hands. Similarly, continuous trauma to the hands can injure the knuckles and surface of the bones.
Our hands are one of the most unique features of humans, that allow us to function at a high level, and we should care for them whenever possible. Gentle massage, hand exercises, moderate diet and working smarter can help maintain healthy hands and fingers, and can sometimes avoid the necessary procedures such as knuckle replacement or finger arthroplasty.
About Dr. Daniel Zanotti, MD: Dr. Zanotti is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with a subspecialty certification in Orthopedic Sports Medicine and holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Pennsylvania State University. He has been practicing at the Center for Orthopedics since 2003, after, completing his orthopedic residency and general surgery internship at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
During his sports medicine fellowship at the prestigious Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, Dr. Zanotti served as a team physician for the Los Angeles Lakers, Dodgers, Sparks, Galaxy and Kings, as well as the Anaheim Angels and Mighty Ducks.