Hands Down

DSC_1058Arthritis reveals itself in different ways. Often we don’t recognize its subtle intrusion into our lives. It takes a while before that “a-ha” moment when we recognize something is amiss, and are finally diagnosed. All those little clues that niggled on the edge of our consciousness suddenly make sense – like the pieces of a puzzle falling into place.

Have you ever stopped to count how often you use your hands in a day? An hour? A minute? I use my hands for everything – opening doors, lifting, grasping, writing, wrapping, whisking, cooking, sewing, typing, shaking, picking, pointing, washing – when the mobility and function of our hands is lost, we lose ourselves. There are so many roles our hands play – they are the subtle contributors to our personality. Many of us gesture with our hands in coordination with dialogue, and thousands more have communicated through one of our most basic skills – handwriting. Remember the first time holding a pencil and writing your name? With the onset of arthritis, the efficacy of this skill deteriorates. The familiar script from my hands is gradually growing into a spidery scrawl that is sometimes unrecognizable. I revealed my surprise at this measured loss in this guest post I had the pleasure to write: https://www.creakyjoints.org/my-ra-handwriting/

No joint is safe from the onslaught of inflammation, but our hands seem to receive the first (and the worst) blow. Swollen fingers can no longer exhibit shimmering rings; hands feel like they’ve been dipped in boiling oil; once nimble fingers crawl instead of fly over the keyboard; we endure the intense aching of the formation of new nodules. With the onslaught of inflammation comes weakness – I have difficulty lifting a pot of water, opening cans, twisting the lids off jars, or prying apart bags; buttons, zippers, and shoelaces have become the bane of my existence.

There are, however, things I can do to maintain the use and mobility of my hands. I will be attending an occupational therapy class to learn the tools to help me keep extra pressure off my joints and aid me in daily activities. Physiotherapy will teach me strengthening exercises I can employ to stay strong and mobile. I’ve even heard tell of special pens available for hands that have difficulty gripping.

I’m a writer. My fingers and hands are the couriers of the stories I must tell – and hands down, arthritis will not take them from me.

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  1. Carla Kienast on November 10, 2014 at 9:42 am

    I was thinking the other day that the things we most often “see” are our hands — simply because we use them to do everything, they’re usually in our line of site. Oddly, RA slammed my large joints first (hip, shoulder, knee have all been replaced). It’s just in the last several months that I’ve had my hands affected and, I’ll tell you, I’m not happy about it. Forget opening jars. Sometimes opening doors (especially heavy retail doors that pull toward you) are very difficult. Long days at the computer mean long nights of pain that nothing seems to calm down. (I use Voltaren like I used to use hand cream.) Glad you’re going for therapy. NOW is definitely the time to take action.

    • J.G. Chayko on November 10, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      Hi Carla, RA got me in the hands first; well, the elbows, then the hands, then other joints followed suit. My hand strength has decreased and it’s time for me to learn some tricks to build up my strength and refrain from putting pressure on joints that are inflamed – I tend to grin, bear it and push on, but I’m learning that could be trouble for my “troubled” joints 🙂 I use Voltaren too, and it seems to help. I hope your hands calm down soon, as well as all your other joints. Stay well, keep smiling. Best, J.G.

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About me

J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.