We all know people who suffer from arthritis pain — in fact, some of us suffer from it as well. Too often, the solution to the problem is to simply “grit-and-bear it” (there’s no grinning, believe me), and maybe pop a pill to mask the pain and reduce the swelling.

However, when a client comes in suffering from swollen, often disfigured joints, take a moment to realize you’re in a position to make a difference. For an hour — maybe two — you have the privilege of offering clients relief from chronic discomfort. When you recognize— or suspect — arthritis in the joints of your client’s hands or feet, take a moment to talk about ways you can help. That conversation may go something like this:

You: It looks like you have arthritis — does it ever cause you pain?

Client: Oh, yes! Actually, I was a little nervous about coming in today because I didn’t know if it would hurt to get a fill.

You: Oh my goodness, I certainly don’t want to cause you discomfort when I move your fingers and hands. I know that could happen when I prep, file, and shape your nails. Now that you’ve said something, I’ll be careful to avoid putting pressure on your joints when I’m holding your fingers. And since you’ve said you experience pain, I’ll change the service a little bit in an effort to help soothe the stiffness.

Client: Great. What can you do?

You: First, I can wrap your hands in a warm, moist towel. The heat will provide some relief. The other thing we can do is to massage your hands with a topical analgesic rather than using only a moisturizing cream. A gel or cream with Arnica is my first choice. It’s natural, it has no odor, and it’s extraordinarily effective at providing relief from pain. During the massage, I’ll give extra attention to the joints on your fingers and wrists. You can let me know the amount of pressure you prefer to relieve some of the stiffness.

Client: That sounds wonderful.

You: I’d also recommend you stay after your appointment for a paraffin treatment or schedule that for the next time you’re here. A massage after a paraffin dip feels amazing. Actually, feel free to call even if you don’t have a nail appointment scheduled. You can pop in and dip your hands on days when you’re feeling particularly stiff. Paraffin is very therapeutic — in the 1950s, doctors used it as a way to help patients suffering from arthritis.

Client: Maybe I’ll start adding that to my appointments whenever I get a fill. Sometimes I really hurt when I leave here, to tell you the truth.

You: Well, I’ll be more aware of it moving forward, but just so you know, we can always switch to a more gentle service. We can schedule a natural nail manicure, which not only requires less movement of your hands, it also includes a longer massage. Your nails and hands will still look gorgeous!

Client: I don’t think we need to do that yet, but I’m glad to hear I have an option.

You: Let me know if that’s something you’d like to try. We could set you up with bi-weekly appointments. That will keep your manicure intact; plus, you’ll have the added benefit of knowing you’ll get a relaxing massage every other week.

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