lightning bolts hitting the joints in a hand

Digit Distress

Last updated: April 2021

It all happened in slow motion. The ceramic bowl bounced off the drying rack, off the counter, and swan dove right into the floor. The shrapnel erupted upwards in an almost beautiful symmetrical puff before landing in waste across the kitchen floor.

You may know exactly how this happened. My fingers seized up, my joints clenched and released, and I lost my grip on the ceramic bowl.

Now, just a few hours earlier a nearly identical occurrence happened (but thankfully, I managed to catch the mug before it hit the tile.

My digits were in distress, for sure. So much so that they decided to stop working altogether.

Fine motor issues with my fingers

I previously wrote about my grip strength in relation to climbing. I have since stopped rock climbing (more out of not wanting to go to the gym right now and not losing interest) but I continue to experience fine motor issues with my fingers.

Why is it that my RA seems to affect my smaller joints most? Is it because they are smaller and more susceptible to inflammation? Are they more inflamed because I use them more?

Ah, the unanswerable questions of rheumatoid arthritis...But, I digress.

More trouble with my fingers than usual

In recent months, I have had more trouble with my fingers than usual. It’s a little odd since my RA has been in pretty good control since May. I haven’t had major flares unless there was a trigger and generally, I’ve felt pretty good.

But, my fingers are swollen, painful, and just plain uncooperative!

Unfortunately, not using my hands is not an option. I mean, I am using them right this second as I type out this article!

4 tips for reducing strain of finger digits

So, I have come up with a few tips that have helped me “spread the load”, if you will, and lessen the strain on my poor digits.


This is a huge one. With school and increased note-taking, writing, and drawing (please note: I experienced swelling long before the semester started), I just can’t keep up with the extra stress on my hands.

Thankfully, now that lectures are asynchronous and uploaded for later use, I can use my dictation software to speak my notes instead of writing them. I almost exclusively use dictation now when sending emails, transcribing notes, and any other writing I have to do. That way, I can do the drawing and other note-taking needed for my science-based courses.

Once classes meet in person again, there are some cool recording applications I can use that won’t disrupt lectures!

Physical therapy

This is a new one that I have not started yet, but my rheumatologist recommended that I do PT to strengthen my hands and fingers. If I strengthen the muscles and increase flexibility, maybe I can reduce the stress on my joints.

Frequent breaks

I keep a pillow next to me to prop up my elbow (and now my hands). I rest my fingers, naturally, on the edge and let them ‘cup’ the pillow. This position provides stability and support while not adding any pressure to the joints.


Sometimes, a quick massage is exactly what the doctor ordered. After my finger break, I quickly rub-down the joints, especially the larger ones at the base of my fingers and the next ones up (those are my most affected). I don’t know if it helps significantly with the joints, but it relaxes the muscles that seize up when I am in pain and trying to fight through continuous typing or writing.

How badly are your fingers affected? What do you do to minimize the strain on them? LMK in the comments!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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