Handy Tips for Not-So-Handy Greetings

We’re all familiar with the role of a handshake in modern culture. Most historians believe that the gesture originated in medieval times as a way for individuals to show they were unarmed upon meeting.1 Some evidence suggests that people may have been shaking hands as far back as the 5th century BC!2

Handshakes are a dread experience

Unfortunately, when you have rheumatoid arthritis, handshakes can become a dreaded experience. For many, even a simple handshake can be extremely painful…made worse by the uncomfortable (and potentially awkward) situation.  A few of our community members even mentioned skipping church services and social events that would require multiple greetings.

We decided to ask our Facebook community if they’ve found ways to avoid shaking hands.

Tips for navigating handshakes with RA

Here are some recommendations from our members:

  • The princess handshake. I extend my hand first, but it is on top and just my fingers. We touch hands very quickly, and I call it my princess handshake.
  • I do what I can to keep something in my hands while I greet people.
  • I say to the person please be gentle I have RA
  • If someone extends a hand to me, I never refuse it. If not, a smile and friendly nod is my general mode of greeting
  • I have for many years now told people that I don't shake hands, but I will and do give the best hugs!
  • Some people are a bit freaked at the very idea of it, but 99 out of a hundred end up smiling about it and some even start doing it my way themselves. Hugs have fewer germs than handshakes, and you seldom walk away from a hug wondering what you may have just touched - unlike handshakes where there can be some lingering ... "ewwws... he just left the bathroom" thoughts.
  • My right hand usually hurts the most. So I extend my left and say pardon my left my right hurts.
  • I had a guy in church that had a bone crushing hand shake that would make want to cry so in the end I always wore a wrist brace to church so he would take the hint
  • My hands will not open so I extend my fist and people usually figure it out!!
  • I'm very open about it!!! RA changes so many factors in our life but this is not our choice!!! Most people are very caring and don't want to put you through more pain
  • I just say it out loud because I’d rather do that than dealing with the pain later.
  • I take their hand in both of mine. Works most of time. I just as soon not shake hands. It hurts and spreads germs.
  • I extend my hand to theirs, than gently place me left hand over the top of both of our hands...no shaking or firm grasp needed. It works with almost everyone.

A no-handshake policy?

Some clinics have instituted a no-handshake policy to spare their patients from pain – and germs.  One physician even “invented” his own method for an arthritis-friendly handshake (View Dr. Shiel’s handshake here)!

Tell us – How do you avoid a handshake when you’re not feeling up to it? 

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