Two hands, one is knotted up and not working properly, the other is seemingly fine.

Another Clumsy Day: Hand Changes and Rheumatoid Arthritis

A few days ago, my Mom and I were having one of our usual phone conversations, regaling each other with stories about our week as we do every few days, when she told me a story that made me laugh out loud, all the while commiserating with her tale.

She has had rheumatoid arthritis for about ten years, and the longer she has lived with it, the more I can relate to her and vice-versa. She told me that she found herself stuck in the floorboard of her car as she was trying to vacuum it out. She said, “I’m getting SO clumsy!” Her shoulder has been bothering her lately a lot after a golfing accident and she was trying to protect it as she was wiggling out of the cramped space. The image is funny, but the reality can be extremely frustrating.

The clumsiness is all to familiar to me

Earlier that day, I had found myself in a similar uncomfortable experience. I was riding my bike around the neighborhood and the chain came off. A simple fix for most, but I realized that with my hands, this easy job was becoming impossible. After a few minutes of thrashing around and getting grease all over my hands, I started thinking I’d be walking the two miles home, glad I hadn’t gotten any further. Luckily, a few minutes later, a kindly man helped to get me back on my bike.

Rheumatoid arthritis has changed my hand function and grip

The past few years, my hand function has gotten worse and, as that has happened, I have hilarious and frustrating experiences daily. How does the pen flip out of my hand and land across the room under the couch? How did I possibly send that carrot flying out of the sink as I attempted to wash it?

Jasper, my dog, is permanently attached to my hip every time I go near the kitchen, and I can guess why! Tightening jars enough so that they don’t leak or fall open has become a victory for me. I have a new nickname, Cholula, because one day I was fixing dinner and shook the bottle of hot sauce, painting the floors and walls. Oops!

Strengthening and attending to my hands

All of this clumsiness may make for funny stories but the reality is that my JRA has worsened my hand function to the point that they will be needing more attention. Since they are getting weaker I’m starting to do theraputty exercises, and paying much more attention to how I use them, making sure that I decrease strain and pain, so that I don’t keep losing the function that I now have. My hands are the squeaky wheel in my body right now and I’m paying attention because I know from experience that if I don’t, my hands, and my life, will suffer.

The body changes that come with rheumatoid arthritis make life more complicated, and in reality, the last thing they are is funny. But sometimes, a good belly laugh works much better than a good cry. So when I can find humor in my new challenges, I feel like I've won that round.

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