Protect your arms and hands

Joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) affect the connective tissues (the stuff that holds us together and binds one thing to another in the body) of the body and leads to multi-site painful conditions.

In particular, JHS causes laxity of ligaments (the connective tissue that joins bones to bones in a joint) in a large number of joints. The overlax ligaments result in overextension (movement beyond the normal range) at those joints leading to chronic injury, pain and disability.

Apart from overextension, JHS also makes you prone to get repetitive stress injury more easily. While the serious joint and soft tissue problems that can occur in the various joints of the arms (shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers) have some scary names like epicondylitis, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndromes, bursitis/tendonitis, synovial cysts, etc., it is also true that even without these conditions, you still have to deal with perpetual pain.

I wrote about the activities and aggravating factors for pain in upper limb joints in this post. I will discuss here, what can you do to ease mild pain and protect yourself.

A. Avoiding Injury 

Reorganize/ Reschedule/Prioritize
1. Divide work into smaller chunks and do them one chunk at a time. It will take longer but it will protect your joints.
2. Take breaks - by changing the work, changing the position, resting, stretching, etc.
3. Do not do all the heavy chores in one day, make a mix of small and big jobs to do in a day.
4. Keep tiring chores scheduled for the start of the day or week, when you have more energy and less pain
5. Delegate what can be delegated to others.

It can be irksome to not complete a chore fully in one go. But if you do a few minutes of one activity, switch to another and then again come back to the first chore a little later, you avoid muscle fatigue, joint injury and pain. Eventually, you manage doing more with less pain and effort.

Be mindful and kind to yourself
1. Be mindful of your joints and how much you extend them in every movement.
2. Learn to notice what precipitates, aggravates or soothes a pain.
3. Stop activities before you reach the point of pain.
4. Decrease your expectations from yourself and start to feel love and consideration for yourself as you would for a loved person who is sick and cannot do the things as fast or as well anymore.
5. You will need to give up doing a few things completely and a do a few things less frequently. Do what you can mindfully and enjoy being able to do that. Routine activities are excellent exercises if done mindfully with good posture.

Adaptive equipment
1. Use gadgets and appliances that can help do your work in an easier way
2. During work, use braces/splints as and when required to support weak or injured joints
3. Slide or roll objects instead of lifting them. Get a home wheeling trolley. Put caster wheels on a few things.
4. Hold all spoon or knife handles straight across the palm instead of diagonally.
5. Use built-up handles, jar openers etc.

1. Find the balance between work and rest
2. Find good balance in your body when you stand/ sit/ work/ rest - learn about body alignment (for example Do not twist arms/hand when carrying a weight.
3. Follow a balanced diet - ensure adequate intake of vitamins and calcium.
4. Find your mental balance by activities that reduce stress - be it music or meditation or something else.
5. Balance your body axis well. Exercises can increase the core strength of your body - muscles of the back and deep muscles of the abdomen - to lift things in a healthier way with your hands.  Change shoulders/hands even if it is not aching yet, when carrying a grocery bag home. Use both hands/arms when possible to do an activity.

Tips for hands
1. Instead of pressing with fingers and tip of thumbs use palms. For example, you might be overextending the thumb joints when you long press a switch (say the pulse button on a mixer-grinder).
2. Instead of pushing with hands or fingers, use heel of the hand or hips (e.g., to close drawers)
3. Don't grab anything tightly for a long time.
4. Avoid lifting things or carrying them for a long time with hands/fingers.
5. For opening the lids of jars, place the palm of your hand on the lid, and using weight of body, turn arm at shoulder to open the jar.


B. Treating the pain 

1. Avoid the precipitating activity for a while. 

2. Wrist bands/ braces, hand splints, finger splints, crepe/ elastic bandages and such immobilizing aids are good to give the aching joint a rest. There are special glove like hand/wrist/thumb glove-braces and supports that allow computer use in a more ergonomic position.
(see some products I pinned from the net here)

3. Try hot water bags or cold gel packs. Immersing the hand in warm water works for me. Many people find cold packs more effective. I find cold aggravates my pain and warm soaks or packs are more soothing. This is true for chronic pain, I think. (a good link on using heat and cold for pain here)

4. Over the counter medications like Paracetamol are effective in taking the edge off and allowing you to be more comfortable.

5. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, available at physio centres, can be helpful in some cases of shoulder pain. Consult a good physiotherapist for their advice.

Read in detail here about how hand joints can be protected.