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Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition which is affecting the joints. The main symptoms can be pain and inflammation. Usually RA affects multiple joints (wrists, fingers or knees) of the body on both sides, but typically small joints are affected first (such as wrists, hands and feet). At late stages RA can result in bone erosion and joint deformities. The symptoms may last for days or months and usually come and go in what we call flare periods.
Main symptoms that will affect the hands are primarily joint pain and swelling or stiffness that last for several weeks. Very often patients experience morning stiffness that lasts for 30 minutes or longer especially during the winter period.
Hand therapy can help in the management of RA for symptoms relief by providing a personalized exercise program to strengthen your muscles and improve your function needs. Others include education about ways to perform tasks that put less stress on the affected joints and use of ergonomic tools and devices that spare the joints, like adaptive knives, jar openers and key holders. These devices and others help you do tasks with less force in the painful joints. Depending on the needs we can provide ready-made or custom splints so that you can use your hands while wearing them.
For further information regarding management of Rheumatoid Arthritis, please see below links:
*BEFORE COMMENCING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING ADVICE OR EXERCISES, PLEASE DISCUSS WITH YOUR HAND THERAPIST TO CONFIRM IF IT IS APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR CONDITION*
Link for RA hand exercises handout:
Link for joint protection booklet: