According to the Arthritis Foundation, about half of all women and one-quarter of all men will experience the stiffness and pain of osteoarthritis in their hands by the time they are 85 . As the protective cartilage around the fingers breaks down over time, it leads bones to rub together, which causes pain. Like many people who experience the pain hope for ways to find relief from chronic hand pain, researchers are busy finding out what works and what doesn’t.
Many people who experience osteoarthritis in their hands are prescribed arthritis gloves to wear. The idea behind them is that the gloves will help ease the pain and improve function. While many people are told to wear them, there’s a good chance that they are not finding the relief they are looking for.
A study published in the February 2022 issue of the journal Rheumatology Advances in Practice put arthritis gloves to the test . Taking 19 participants, they gave some arthritis gloves to wear and the others loose-fitting placebo gloves. The participants were interviewed by interviewers who were blind to the type of gloves each participant wore. They wore the gloves for 12 weeks.
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What they found was that those who wore the glove were ambivalent about them. They also didn’t report that they had a reduction in pain or function by wearing them. The only benefit that the participants found was that the gloves made their hands warmer. They conclude that ordinary mid-finger length gloves could be worn for warmth rather than being prescribed arthritis gloves.
That study confirms prior ones that report similar results, including one published in the January 2021 issue of the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders . In that study, researchers used 260 participants. They concluded that arthritis gloves provided no improvement in hand pain, stiffness, or function, and they found them not to be cost-effective.
The good news is that there is a recent study showing something that does help reduce chronic pain from hand arthritis. In the February 2022 issue of the journal Medical Acupuncture, researchers conducted a systematic review of the effects of using acupuncture on hand and wrist pain . They concluded that acupuncture might be a safe and effective option to help short-term hand arthritis pain relief and improve function.
Those who want to give acupuncture a try to help with short-term relief and increased function should look for an experienced acupuncturist.
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- Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis of the Hands.
- Rheumatology Advances in Practice. Does wearing arthritis gloves help with pain and function? February 2022.
- BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Clinical and cost-effectiveness of arthritis gloves in rheumatoid arthritis. January 2021.
- Medical Acupuncture. The Effects of Acupuncture on Hand and Wrist Pain Intensity, Function Status, and Quality of Life. February 2022.
This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.