Tag Archives: Fingers

Dr. C’s Journal: Care Of Hand Osteoarthritis

I started having hand pain about 20 years ago, and booked a visit with the rheumatologist in my medical building. He looked at my hands and immediately knew that I had osteoarthritis.

The thumb musculature (the thenar eminence) was angled with respect to the plane of the rest of my hand and wasn’t flat like normal. Some of my joints were slightly swollen and even warm to the touch, and many of my fingers were beginning to get crooked.

He ordered a rheumatoid panel, uric acid and inflammatory markers. The normal results confirmed his diagnosis of osteoarthritis.

The middle and index fingers have taken a lot of trauma over the years. They are also the crookedest, for the same reason. With the thinning of my skin or you can see the outline of my tendons  on the palm of my hand, and some are a little bit bumpy and irregular. I am unable to make a tight fist anymore, although my fingers will flex to some degree.

I practice exercises on my wrist, hands and fingers, such as rotating my wrist and thumb in a circular fashion, touching my thumb to the tips of my fingers in sequence, squeezing a rubber ball, and flattening out my hand against the back of my head. Recently, I have noticed a little resistance when I try to straighten out my ring fingers after flexing them, and worried about developing trigger finger. On further reading I found that trigger finger is not more common in people who have osteoarthritis.

I do a lot of swimming, and am worried that the irritative force of the water regularly acting up on my hand might be making the hand pain worse. But my hands seem to be a little bit better with the hand exercises. There seems to be less pain, although maybe I have the same amount of pain but tolerate it better since I’m doing something about it. One never knows about a preventative program, since you’re an experiment of one. You have to have faith that what you are doing is beneficial, and in harmony with medical studies. Perhaps my anti-inflammatory diet and turmeric, as well as my good sleep and aerobic exercise is also helping.

—Dr. C.

Blood Circulation: What Is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon: Not just poor circulation

When you’re exposed to a cold environment, your body reacts by trying to preserve your core temperature. Blood vessels near the surface of your skin constrict, redirecting blood flow deeper into the body. If you have Raynaud’s phenomenon, this process is more extreme, and even slight changes in air temperature can trigger an episode, says rheumatologist Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing and corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Cold weather is the classic trigger for Raynaud’s phenomenon. But it can occur any time of year — for example, when you come out of a heated pool, walk into an air-conditioned building, or reach into the freezer section at the supermarket,” he says. In addition to the hands, Raynaud’s can also affect the feet and, less often, the nose, lips, and ears. During an episode, the small arteries supplying the fingers and toes contract spasmodically, hampering the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the skin. Some of these vessels even temporarily collapse, and the skin becomes pale and cool, sometimes blanching to a stark white color.

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #6: OSTEOARTHRITIS (OA)

Osteoarthritis (OA) was considered a Degenerative disease when I went to Med School in the late 50s. I am more interested in OA since I have developed it myself.

There is a 40-60% hereditary component. My father’s mother had arthritis badly in her hands, as did my mother’s mother, and so on. A lot of genome-correlation work has shown many different genes involved,

But without a single big contributor, OA appears to be “multifactorial”, similar to a lot of common diseases like Diabetes l. Trauma can be a factor. Old sports injuries, like an ACL tear, that you thought a thing of the past, may come back to haunt you in later years.

INFLAMMATION, the most popular explanatory cause of the decade, may be operating in OA. For instance, you can imagine that OBESITY would contribute to hip and knee OA simply through the traumatic force of gravity. But obesity is also a disease of Inflammation, and increases IL-6 and other cytokines as well.

My own OA involves the classic distal 2 interphalangeal joints (go to the wikipedia manekin for a color-representation of OA classic locations). The base of my thumb, neck and back are also a problem.

Strangely, but wonderfully, my “wheels”, the Hips and Knees, are spared. I have exercised a lot in my life. Clearly, you can’t “wear out” your joints with ordinary exercise.

Our joints have evolved to allow us to move. Since bone has a lot of pain fibres, it would be painful to move the joints, directly bone-on-bone. So we have cartilage on the ends of the bones and discs between the vertebrae. The cartilage is slick to reduce friction.

Cartilage has no blood to supply it with nutrients. Instead, it relies on the joint (synovial) fluid. The cartilage is like a sponge. Walking alternately compresses and relaxes the spongy cartilage, increasing the synovial fluid circulation, thus improving the nutrition of the cartilage. If the Cartilage disappears, there is pain.

I am not a fan of pain medication. My belief was strengthened by the side effects of the study of a medication designed to genetically block pain transmission by injection into the painful joints. The side effect was virtual dissolution of the joints in a fraction of those treated. I felt more comfortable with my pain after reading the article.

Although Acetaminophen helps a little, NSAIDs usually work better, perhaps because of their anti-inflammatory action.

If, like me, you have stomach issues, there are the COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex. The one dose I recently took was almost magical in its effects. Maybe if you don’t use pain Meds much, they work better.

I do take Glucosamine-Chondroitin, thinking that providing building blocks for cartilage couldn’t hurt. Along this line I also EAT CARTILAGE whenever I eat Chicken or ribs, being careful not to damage my teeth in the act of of exercising my jaws.

I also take Curcumin, hoping to relieve some pain, in spite of the fact that it is poorly absorbed (some brave souls take it by injection). I don’t know if any of this helps, How can you know in such a variable disorder, in the absence of controlled studies.

And pain has no OBJECTIVE markers, and is notoriously hard to study. We literally know more about the surface of mars than we know about Pain.

SLEEP, DIET, and EXERCISE, by minimizing OA factors kike OBESITY and INFLAMMATION are the best bet for preventing and treating OA at present.

–DR. C