Though more than 100 types of arthritis exist, two are most familiar: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is often referred to as a “wear-and-tear” disease. Because of the repetitive nature of their work, nail techs are at risk to develop this form of arthritis over the course of their careers.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis can include swollen joints, warmth, redness, stiffness or soreness, and pain. In severe cases, swollen joints become disfigured. This limits the movement in the joints, making it impossible to flex or bend the joint fully, which, in turn, restricts certain activities. Unlike other forms of arthritis, which could make a person feel ill or tired, osteoarthritis presents as pain at the site of individual joints.
Arthritis occurs when the cartilage surrounding the joints wears out. Without the cushioning protection of the cartilage, bone rubs on bone, causing pain and restricting movement. A number of factors can wear down the cartilage, but all factors cause the same problem: too much is required of the cartilage so it begins to deteriorate. This could be the result of obesity; the excessive weight places too much strain on the cartilage so it doesn’t function as it should. It wears out and places stress on the joints. Osteoarthritis can also occur as part of the normal aging process, especially in those who have a family history of arthritis. Injury and repetitive overuse can also damage the cartilage, causing it to wear out faster than it normally would. If you’re susceptible to osteoarthritis, either from genetics, job requirements, or injury, you could benefit from performing regular stretches to keep mobility in your joints.
Many people respond to the soreness and stiffness of arthritis by resting. It seems to make sense: The area hurts when you move it, so don’t move it. However, this tightens the ligaments and reduces the joint’s range of motion, causing more pain. Keep the joints flexible by performing range-of-motion stretching exercises like the one included here. At work, take time to stretch, bend, and massage the fingers to keep the joints mobile.
To reduce swelling and pain, try anti-inflammatory medications and topical analgesics. Applying ice to the area also reduces swelling, while heat soothes the sore area. Sufferers can also benefit from massage, which will both relieve soreness and increase joint flexibility. Finally, many at-home herbal remedies are rumored to be effective, including supplements such as glucosamine-chondroitin.
Hold the right hand straight, with fingers and thumb pointing upward. Bend fingers and thumb at the knuckle so fingertips are touching the pads at the bottom of the fingers. Open and bend digits several times, then repeat with the left hand.
Rest your arm with the side of your hand, wrist and arm lying on a desk or table. Gently bring your fingers and thumb into the palm, rolling them into a gentle fist. Unroll and roll several times and then repeat with alternating hand.
If arthritis becomes a source of chronic pain, consult a doctor. She will assess the visual symptoms and exercise the joint to determine range of motion. If necessary, she may draw fluid off the joint. Treatment could include over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol, Aleve, or Advil. A variety of prescription drugs are available for the treatment of arthritis, and cortisone shots also aid in pain management.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Photography by Kimberly Pham
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