Cold weather, rolling cookie dough, and wrapping gifts could all add up to extra hand pain this holiday season. Hand pain is not only annoying but can really slow you down in a season when you need to be productive. If you live with hand pain, read ahead for five ways to help you can stay on top of your holiday to-do list.
1. Plan for it
Recognizing that you are prone to hand pain when you do too much is the first step in avoiding a holiday-induced set back. Understanding that you need to pace yourself will allow you to plan activities so they are spread throughout the season and don’t happen all at once. For example, many types of cookies freeze very well. These cookies can be made in advance and then baked later. Another example is wrapping gifts. It is always tempting to wrap everything at once, which is not good for hand pain. However, if wrapping them all at once is what you prefer, ask friends and family to help pitch in.
2. Consume anti-inflammatory foods
Some foods have been shown to help reduce inflammation. For example, pineapple contains an enzyme known as bromelain and has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent in clinical settings. Berries, rich in antioxidants, can also prove helpful. The Arthritis Foundation recommends consuming at least 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per meal. Having a variety of fruits ready in your freezer can make it easy to use them daily in smoothies or on cereal.
3. Use heat and cold
Heat can loosen hand stiffness. Cold can help if you have already done too much and need to reduce inflammation. Before starting on holiday work, be sure that your hands are warm and gently stretched. One of my secrets is to boil two eggs and when they are cool enough to handle, gently squeeze them and let the heat penetrate to the joints. Keeping a gel pack in the freezer can also be helpful. A gel pack will freeze, but can also be gently wrapped around the contours of your hand for 20 minutes after your project is completed.
Elite athletes understand that in order perform at your best, you must schedule in days of rest and recovery. Rest might mean taking a day off from any work involving your hands. If your schedule is extremely demanding, it might also be helpful to ask your pharmacist about a splint that could stabilize the position of your fingers and allow any inflammation to settle down.
5. Take medications as needed
Medications that can ease pain and inflammation can be an important component of managing hand pain. The type of medication that will work the best will most often depend on the reason for your hand pain. If you know that you will be asking a lot of your hands over the next several months, you may want to talk to your doctor about what medications you should take and how often. People sometimes think that medications only treat the pain and so they try to tough it out. However, some medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids can actually help reduce inflammation and possibly prevent further injury.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.