Treatments for hand arthritis

January 6, 2012 2:42:51 PM PST
Arthritis in the hands can made normally fun activities feel like chores.

But one hospital in the New York area is applying a mind-body approach instead of drugs.

It looks like a séance, but these people aren't reaching out beyond the grave, they're reaching out beyond the grave pain they have, to find relief.

They all have arthritis in their hands.

Roberta Schine is a yoga instructor and she's giving a hand yoga class, starting out to relax a body part she says we take for granted.

"We write with our hands, we gesture, and if we have pain in the hands, there's no way we can have a good day," said Roberta Schine, Hospital for Special Surgery.

This day will be good, though, as all these patients are learning ways to reduce pain, such as stretching finger muscles, and adding power to them, working against putty or against a rubber band.

A hand massage will also work against the ravages of arthritis.

Arthritis can inflame and damage the cartilage in the joints and reduce its shock absorbing capacity.

That and the inflammation itself produce pain.

Stronger and limber muscles may make a difference, because some older people can't take arthritis drugs because of side effects.

"They can be hard on the stomach you can get ulcers, and even so it may not work," said Dr. Lisa Mandl, Hospital for Special Surgery.

One patient is Miriam Pollack, who has rheumatoid arthritis and who's been to two of the classes.

"They give you ideas about what you can do when you're hurting and even when you're not," said Miriam Pollack, a rheumatoid arthritis patient.

Arthur Stevens has osteoarthritis.

"I find the massages especially helpful and those which increase the mobility of the digits," Stevens said.

It's not just about getting better physically.

"I also think patients love the idea of taking charge of their disease that's not pills or shots," Dr. Mandl said.

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