Physiotherapy Q&A : How do I improve arthritic pain in my hands?

I suffer from arthritis, especially in the small joints of my hands. The cold weather often makes the pain in my hands a lot worse and limits what I can do with them. I am keen to stay as active as possible this winter, is there anything you can suggest I can do to limit this pain and keep me active?

This is a common concern for a lot of people I see with osteoarthritis in the joints of their hands. Although there is no scientific evidence that confirms cold weather has a consistent link to increased pain in the joints it is something that is symptomatically present with many patients. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), who advises the NHS and the government on the effectiveness of treatments for many conditions, highlights core areas that must be considered when treating the pain of arthritis as well as some additional treatments that vary in their effectiveness.

Essentially, to minimise this pain it is important to fully understand the condition of osteoarthritis in order to know what to do to avoid flaring it up. Useful information can be found on It is also advised to strengthen the local muscles in the hands and wrists as well as maintaining a good level of physical fitness as good circulation is really important. Following this, application of heat or cold packs to the sites of pain, effective use of basic painkillers and gentle stretching can all be beneficial. For individually tailored advice on the best management of your specific arthritis it is always advised to speak with your GP or a recommended Physiotherapist.

Page last reviewed on 27/06/2013