Friday, August 24, 2012

Many Ways of Coping with a Fractured Hand and Arthritis

Dear friends,

As I mentioned three weeks ago in my post Weekend Gratitude: In Every Situation, my left - and dominant - hand was injured by one of my {rowdy} children pulling back on my pinky finger.  (Said child is very, very sorry for hurting me!  No hard feelings.  At least not much.)  

Anyway, my hand was still so swollen and sore a few days later that I went in for a visit to my doctor and then an x-ray at a nearby radiology clinic.  At that time, they didn't find any fracture or dislocation, but I still kept it in a combination of some sort of splint and or brace because I knew it needed it.  

Well, long story short, two weeks later it was still not improving much, though some of the swelling had gone down.  It hurt horribly whenever it was bumped.  Worse yet, my finger is a bit crooked and tucks under the adjacent one, which is rather annoying and disconcerting.  My son-in-law, who was over for my husband's birthday dinner, looked at it and recommended talking to his dad, Dr. Tindall.  His dad, in turn, offered to get me in to see one of the top-rated hand specialists in our area.  It usually takes three weeks to get in for an non-emergency appointment, but I had one within two days at a fraction of the normal cost.  Sometimes "it's who you know"!  I am very grateful.

Improvising with a
thumb brace to support
the litttle finger instead
Looking at the original x-rays, this doctor called me over and showed me the hairline fracture on my 5th metacarpal bone along the edge of my left hand.  He said the fracture will take only a few more weeks to heal and that I should keep wearing the hand brace and supporting the pinky. (I have since found a way to twist the brace around even more so that the metal bar lines up with the broken bone, the "thumb" loop holds up the pinky instead, and the finger strap loosely tethers the pinky to the ring finger. No tape or gauze needed! I line it with a terry cloth wrist band to keep it from itching so much.)  Unfortunately, the hand doctor also told me I have a sprain that will take several more months to heal.  When the bone and sprain heal, the ligaments should straighten out and my finger might not be crooked any more.  Here's hoping.

Soothing lavendar epsom salts make my hands smell like flowers
He also recommended soaking in Epsom salts and warm water three times a day to help reduce the swelling and pain.  

Even before he saw the x-ray, this doctor took one look at both of my hands and started showing me the bone spurs on my knuckles.  He confirmed what I already strongly suspected from the pain: that I have arthritis.  My right hand has been quite uncomfortable in recent months and even more so in the past few days, especially my pinky and where the thumb meets my wrist.  Yes, I am only 48 (at least for two more weeks!), but my mother got arthritis at about the same age.  My grandmother and aunt have it, too.

So far, I've only been talking about cut-and-dry physical details.  But there is always much more.  Both the sudden excruciating injury and finding out I really do have arthritis have been quite emotionally traumatic for me.  It doesn't help that mothering 10 children has been quite difficult on my whole body, especially on my joints.  Not having full use of either of my hands to care for my family and home for the past few weeks has been really really disheartening.  I feel so helpless at times.  Looking ahead to a potential lifetime of pain and reduced productivity has been an intense mixture of frustration and sadness for me.  As I noted on my Facebook status, "I am not a happy camper."   I do believe that it is healthy for human beings to take the opportunity to grieve their losses and not just pretend everything is OK when it is not.  

At the same time, I believe that there are ways to (eventually) come to terms with aggravating circumstances, both by learning a foundational life contentment AND by doing what can be done to alleviate (or better yet, prevent) the miseries that come our way.  I guess that goes along with Reinhold Niebuhr's famous Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

I have accepted the reality that I will never be truly pain free in this earthly lifetime, either from arthritis or injuries or anything else.  I have the hope of no pain or sorrow in heaven.  I also try to remember those who are suffering much more than I could ever imagine.  Hurting even a little gives me at least a small measure of compassion for them.  I don't want to be a chronic complainer either. I have better things to do with my life than whine all the time.  (This is the attitude I have tried to take with my Attention Deficit Disorder, too: ADD and Me? We'll Manage!)

And now I need the courage to change.  This is harder by far.

There are easy things to do for arthritis, like using topical pain relievers.  (I am trying to avoid much ibuprofen because of some of my other health issues.)  Right now I am trying out the brand new Icy Hot arthritis pain relief lotion in a pump bottle.  It seems to help some.  So does the Equate generic "brand" pain reliever ointment from Walmart, but that has a more intense odor.

The more difficult changes are in my diet, but those are the most important, not just because of my hand pain but for the rest of my body.  I keep saying I am going to try to eat differently and lose weight, but I haven't stuck to it yet.  In the case of arthritis, it is more a matter of avoiding certain foods that tend to cause inflammation.  These are smaller, more specific changes, so maybe I can ease into healthier eating that way.

I had already checked out a library book called Food Cures by Joy Bauer, which has a chapter on arthritis.  Then my son-in-law's father, Dr. Tindall, who has studied nutrition for decades, gave me some more pointers.  Today, my daughter Rachel, a nursing student, gave me some pages of information she had typed when she was studying arthritis and nutrition.  These included the web sites: and  I came up with the following lists by combining the information from all of these sources.

Things that help:
  • Water: Drinking lots of it keeps the cartilage working.
  • Foods and spices: carrots, ginger, turmeric, leeks, garlic, pumpkin seeds, extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish, salmon, whole wheat, brown rice, tart cherries, fresh pineapple, papaya, green tea, green herbs, raw almonds, honey
  • Supplements: glucosamine chondroitin (not the cheap stuff), Boswellia, alfalfa, Omega-3 fish oil, vitamins C & E
  • Other: heat, ice after exercise, stretching, moderate exercise (walking, swimming, etc.), tools like door grips and bottle openers, topical pain reliever ointments or lotions 
Things to reduce or avoid:
  • Foods and beverages: cow's milk, beef, pork, citrus, coffee, fried foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined grains (white flour, white rice, etc.) milk chocolate, sweet tea, Coke, shell fish, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, alcohol
  • Activities: anything that put pressure on the affected joints, such as weight lifting or jogging

The biggest immediate change for me is cutting out the protein bars I have been eating almost every day, both because of the chocolate and the soy protein isolate, which probably isn't good for what remains of my thyroid.  Another change is switching back to brown rice from the white rice that my kids prefer.  I will not give up fresh spinach or broccoli, since they are my favorite vegetables and their other health benefits outweigh the risk of inflammation.  And yes, I will need to cut back on sugar, potatoes, and red meat.  That will be most painful.

I should note that today my hand has felt better than it has in a while.  I had the brace off for a couple of hours and I could type somewhat comfortably without it.  Yay!  But I may be paying for it with pain in the middle of the night.  Boo.  So I put the brace back on after my Epsom soak and I'm back to hunt-and-peck on the computer keyboard.

I hope that this post has been helpful, whether you suffer from arthritis or some other challenge in your life.  If you have any helpful ideas or favorite resources for the rest of us, please leave a comment below!

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

This post will be linked at:

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  1. I am glad you were able to find out exactly what was wrong with your hand. It might of been much worse if it had been allowed to heal in the wrong position. Being able now to take precautionary steps to prolong arthritis will only help in the long run.
    Hope you feel better soon!

  2. Hi there,

    Is that the weight loss and wellness doc from missouri? Dr john tindall? He helped my friend. Is he still practicing?


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