I have great empathy for people who perform manual labor. I have seen first-hand how years of full-time lifting, cleaning, and cooking wreak havoc on the joints of the hand and wrist. I see patients every day who have early onset arthritis that is work-related.
Ironically, my last X-ray taken by my orthopedist confirms that I, too, am encountering degenerative changes in my thumbs at the ripe old age of 39.
Pathology can sneak up on you if you are not careful. Once you have clearly defined what your problem is, take steps to soften the effects of time and stress imposed by physical work.
One enormously helpful thing I’ve done is to purchase flexible braces for my thumbs, called “short thumb spicas.” These braces gently wrap around my wrists and thumbs and serve to support the base of my thumbs when I am working on patients. I can honestly say that the pain in my thumbs has been essentially eliminated when I consistently use my braces.
I have seen first-hand how years of full-time lifting, cleaning, and cooking wreak havoc on the joints of the hand and wrist. I see patients every day who have early onset arthritis that is work-related.
Bracing is available for many joints, ranging from ankles and knees to spinal segments and hands. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if bracing could be an effective component of managing your arthritis.
It is also important to note that restricting the motion of a joint through bracing does have the ill effect of weakening surrounding muscles. I make sure that I perform some gentle, non-impacting stretching and strengthening in my hands a few times weekly to counteract any residual weakness.
My goal is to be able to treat patients well into my 70s. Although I doubt that I will be working full time at that point, I am confident that the preventative steps that I am taking now will allow me to continue doing what I enjoy for a very long time.
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