Hand Pain in Fibromyalgia: How I Cope

Hand Pain and Fibromyalgia - Tips To Help YouIt’s been a while since I added a Fibromyalgia blog post. My aim with this site generally is not to write anything unless I have something to say. I try hard to bring something unique to the web, so I don’t want to do what I call “me too” posts – writing about something that everyone else is writing about. However, I go through phases with Fibro where I have a really tough issue, that of hand pain.

What Does Hand Pain Feel Like?

Winter (as it still is on the day I wrote this post) is really hard on my hands. Gloves don’t warm them up and the cold just makes them hurt so much.

There are a few ways to describe how it feels in my case:

  • Like Razorblades: sometimes it feels like someone’s inserted some sharp, pointy implements between my finger joints. It usually impacts the knuckles, where the fingers join the hand. But this ‘sharp pain’ can be between individual digits as well. This is the worst kind of hand pain for me.
  • Massive Tightness: As it is today as I type this, my hand musles and tendons just feel massively tight. It’s almost like they want to turn my hands into ‘The Claw’ (Movie Reference: Liar Liar). This can make stretching hands really hard, lifting or carrying really difficult or even just typing a blog post.
  • The Numbness Effect: sometimes my hand pain can simply start by sleeping wrong, leaning on them in the night. Then the pressure I’ve placed on them leads to a high level of inflexibility in my fingers. If this one occurs, usually one of the other pain versions above will follow.

Why Hand Pain is Particularly Annoying For Me

I don’t know how anyone who has to lose a hand (say though an accident, or fighting as part of the armed forces) copes. You need your hands for everything really: getting dressed, getting washed, making a cup of coffee, driving… it’s hard to think of a version of human activity that doesn’t need your hands. Even watching TV, you need hands for the remote control or to cradle snacks.

Even where relationships are concerned, I’m a huge believer in ‘real hugs’ (which don’t put me in pain if I know they’re coming!) – but embracing requires arms and hands. Wiping away something else’s tears needs a level of dexterity.

But the areas of life where my Fibromyalgia-ridden hand pain causes the most distress or annoyance are:

  • My Day Job: because I work with Fibromyalgia, this type of pain can be really distressing. I work with computers, a lot. And because that rarely involves prose, what I do cannot be achieved except by typing. I need to clear emails quickly, write computer code and do design. As with face pain, hand pain can be really distressing when I have deadlines and promises to keep. And pain in my hands can sometimes reduce me to tears.
  • My Church Involvement: I occasionally preach at my church. That means reading and preparing notes, slides for the projector etc. A preach means I usually have to prepare 3000-4000 words. But also my preparation notes can add 50% to the typing I need to do. So I can get in from my day job and immediately have to type again.
  • Gaming: I only play a couple of games: SWTOR and Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). But using the mouse or pressing the same buttons for movements, or abilities can get really tough, especially in intense battles. Then most online games have a chat ability which involves typing. I do have headphones which can help me voice chat, but if my head hurts then the pressure of the headphones can be too much, so I use earphones and type chat.

So the hand pain affects many areas of life, but there are a few things I’ve learned can help:

How Can You Improve Hand Pain from Fibromyalgia?

Hand Pain Tip 1: Hot Water

Soaking my hands in warm water (from the tap) can provide a temporary relief. Having a bath and remembering to leave your hands in the water (instead of, say, reading a book) can help massively. I even occasionally do the washing up because it means my hands are in warm water for a decent length of time. The heat from the water can help to relax the muscles and tendons in my experience.

Hand Pain Tip 2: Ibuprofen Gel

I had to fight my doctors to get this on my repeat prescription, but it does really help. Lather your hands in Ibuprofen gel then give them some time to relax and let it soak in. You may need something stronger, but you have to show the doctors you’ve tried the lower-strength stuff first, in my experience.

Hand Pain Tip 3: Rest and Consider Dictation

Avoid typing even for an hour or so. When I play, I often avoid type chatting, even though I’m part of social guilds. Why? Because very often it hurts too much. Taking breaks is rarely achievable in the workplace so I have to give my hands rest in other ways.

Another idea I have tried is using dictation software or voice-activated search. A bit hit or miss and I have to wear a headset (which can trigger headaches, ironically). Dictation is geared towards ‘natural langauge’ and not every computer program supports that. Certainly 90% of my day job doesn’t. Macs have some dictation built in and Dragon Dictate is highly recommended if you type a lot of prose. You’ll have to make corrections and be very patient as it learns your voice, but it does reduce typing stress.

Hand Pain Tip 4: Type Slower or Use Shortcuts

Because my hands hurt, I usually try to type too quickly, leading to typos, which need correcting. Ironically by going quickly, I usually end up typing more than I need to. Take your time, use Copy/Paste wherever feasible. Hand Pain from computer usage is a form of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), so try to reduce the repetitiveness.

Hand Pain Tip 5: Avoid Smaller Devices

I don’t type very often on my mobile phone because it enforces ‘The Claw’! So on Twitter, I use my laptop, or my Kindle which has a ‘swipe to type‘ feature built into the Android operating system. That along with the much bigger keyboard really helps.

Hand Pain Tip 6: Get Special Gloves

Someone on Twitter recommended I purchase a set of Arthritis Gloves. Fingerless, I can still use my computer and type, but they help increase circulation and also apply a little pressure to the hands. I have found these massively reduce the pain in my hands and I have also reduced how much reliance I place on my TENS machine.

Hand Pain Tip 7: TENS Machine

Available from a lot of places, home TENS machines are fairly affordable. You have to keep batteries on stand-by and periodically replace the pads, but TENS machines send slight electrical pulses into the hands, helping stimulate your body’s natural processes. It really does help my hands, but can also be used on other parts of the body – for me, the neck and shoulders are the primary targets. And it does help!

TL;DR Hand Pain and Fibromyalgia

As with all aspects of Fibro, I just ask for understanding. If I don’t do group content in a computer game because I hurt, I’m not being antisocial. If I don’t add to my site very often that’s okay. Hand pain causes a lot of distress for me. So now I’m going to go soak my hands in hot water and put some ibuprofen gel on after typing this blog post.

I hope something here helped someone – and thanks for reading!

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8 thoughts on “Hand Pain in Fibromyalgia: How I Cope

  1. Great tip about the Ibuprofen gel. As you know I don’t have fibromyalgia, but I do suffer from chronic nerve pain in my legs. On bad days, I found that Ibuprofen gel takes away that sharp edge. It may not help a lot, but with much pain even a little bit is such a relief. I’m luckily that you can buy it in regular drug stores here in the Netherlands (it’s officially meant for muscle pain after too much sports but hey, it does the trick, sort of), so I don’t even need to fix a prescription!

    As always, it’s really interesting to read about fibromyalgia and its effect on your daily life – you can look up on the internet what a disease does, but it never gives you the same understanding – and I’m super impressed with how you cope.

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence! I don’t always feel like I cope, some days it’s just a fight for survival. But I should be grateful, my legs always ache like crazy, but I don’t get pain in them – so you do well to manage your own chronic pain too. 🙂

  2. So inspiring. After a break of 11 months from work I am now planning to go back to my very physical job (an early interventionist ) part time in the public sector. All the uncertainties are killing me ..but I need to make a start and perhaps even plan to use my skills in a self sustaining manner. It’s not clear now as to the how of going down the path..but I do want to believe that when God closes a door he opens another window ! Any chance I could correspond on email with you ?

  3. thank you for the hand tips- I have quite a time with this problem, one of the things that helps me is dipping my hands in hot wax, have you tried that?

  4. I’m not the only one to hand wash dishes to help my hand pain then. Even though I have a dishwasher!!
    I’m learning to use the speech recognition built into windows 10 at the moment. It seems ok and appears to learn as you use it so I’m hopeful. It’s a real shame that it doesn’t work for your day job. A gap in the market maybe?
    Don’t forget to have a cup of tea or coffee near by, not for drinking but warming your hands on. I drive hubby nuts with half drunk cups around the place! Take care, Cath x

    1. Haha, yes I’ve used the hot-mug method too. But I keep re-heating my drinks so I don’t waste any.

      And yes there is a gap in the market for coding-by-dictation, but having looked into it, it’s massively challenging to create because of the huge variety in coding languages and relative flexibility in naming conventions inside software. So there is a gap, but it’s going to take a larger company with a team of techs to get it right I think.

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