My Strange Hands
Last updated: March 2021
I know that my hands look different, but I am used to them. They are small and my fingers are short and stubby. More than that, several of them have swan’s neck deformities. My thumbs no longer bend in the middle. And I can’t make a good fist because of lack of bend in my fingers. My wrists are slightly bent all the time.
Yet they do what I need them to do! I laugh to myself because people expect all the time that I wouldn’t be able to write or type. Yet, I type super fast! I may only use a couple fingers to hit the keys, but I’ve got it down. I remember taking typing in middle school where we were told to hit certain keys with certain fingers. I would try, then I would just do it the best way for me. (Like a lot of things in my life, I make it work).
Hand surgery?! Not interested.
Searching for an orthopedic surgeon
A number of years ago, I was on the search for a new orthopedic surgeon. It was a few years out of college and I wanted to have a doctor to just monitor my hip and knee joint replacements. Everything was working fine, but my logic was that it would be good to have someone at the ready in case anything went wrong.
I picked a name out of the list of doctors at the same clinic as my rheumatologist and made my appointment. I guess it was a faulty decision-making process because I got a young idiot who freaked me the hell out. He told me that my hips and knees were fine, but that I should consider reconstructive hand surgery. I felt like a specimen and creepy crawlies ran up and down my spine as he turned my hands this way and that to look at them. I told him I wasn’t interested.
Don't fix what's already working
It’s not a great sales pitch to tell someone you will break their joints, reset them, cast them and leave them unable to function for however long while healing. What about dressing, cooking, and eating? What about work? What about the fact that my hands have rheumatoid arthritis and would likely go back to a deformed state, meaning that I would have gone through an excruciating amount of pain for nothing?
I don’t deny that hand surgery can be very helpful for many people. What I do argue is that it may not be a good idea for me due to the amount of damage I have and the difficulties I would have during recovery. I also just have to wonder—if my hands are getting the job done (which they are) then why do I have to break them to fix the situation?
RA hand care: other treatment options
Later, I went to acupuncture for many years. One of the areas that I had treated were my hands and I did find it helpful for reducing pain, swelling, and deformities. I have to admit the treatment of having needles in my finger and wrist joints was usually uncomfortable and the results were not huge. But for a time, and as part of treatment, it was helpful.
As a child, I had a lot of hand therapy, like doing tasks to help with dexterity and squeezing balls to help with strength. Maybe it helped, but I’m not sure. My RA just kept progressing and attacking every joint that it could. I’m not sure anything available at the time could have been much help.
Hot wax dip
The only treatment for my hands that I ever really enjoyed was the hot wax dip. It may not have made my hands any better, but it felt so good to have the warmth on them. It was so soothing. My husband even got me one as a gift and I am happy to have this option back in my life.
So, while I know I have strange hands, I don’t ever feel bad about them. I’m always grateful that they help me out and do what they can despite the tough odds.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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