Reducing Arthritic Pain in the Hand and Wrist


As a massage therapist, I work daily with clients that suffer from chronic pain associated with arthritis. Particularly troublesome is arthritis in the hands and wrists, as it is not only painful, but limits one’s ability to do the activities of daily life like opening doors, writing and picking up kids and grandkids. It is important to understand that although arthritis is a degenerative condition, it may be possible to reduce the pain and dysfunction by incorporating a combination of manual therapy, paraffin wax, and lymphatic drainage.

The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, School of Medicine, led by researcher Tiffany Field, studies exclusively the effects of touch on the human body. Tiffany Field and her group of researchers published a paper “Hand arthritis pain is reduced by massage therapy” in which she describes the methods used to achieve a reduction in pain and improvement in grip strength in people suffering from arthritis. The method is very straightforward and basically includes incorporating a 30-minute massage therapy treatment to the fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms into your routine once a week. Equally important according to Field, is the addition of a daily self-massage routine that addresses the same areas. Although the mechanism of pain reduction is not entirely clear, it is evident that massage contributes to a reduction of pain.

Paraffin Wax is also known to help reduce pain and stiffness in the joints of the hands and feet and is very accessible. Paraffin is mixed with mineral oil and melted in a unit, much like a crock pot, and heated to a comfortable temperature. The affected limb is dipped into the wax several times and then wrapped in clear plastic and towels to preserve the heat and allow the tissues to relax. The addition of lymphatic drainage to this treatment is also beneficial. This is a very gentle form of massage that promotes the reduction of edema and may help to speed the healing process.

In summary, if you or anyone you know is suffering from the pain and dysfunction of arthritis, considering trying a combination of massage therapy, paraffin wax, and lymphatic drainage to experience the difference manual therapy can make in your life. The Registered Massage Therapists at the Lavallee Health Centre can provide the treatments described above as well as offer training in self-massage and assist you in accessing paraffin wax in your home.