Arthritis – the problem
There are estimated to be over 50 million people who have arthritis in the US—that’s 1 in 5 of all Americans. Many of these will suffer from arthritis of the hand. So, do arthritis gloves work? Long story short – unfortunately the answer is not definitive, however thousands of people do use some sort of glove to alleviate hand issues. Read on to learn more about these gloves and see if they may be suitable for you.
Arthritis is commonly known to be a painful and debilitating disease. What is not as well known is that it can affect any age group, from young to old. In addition to feelings of pain, arthritis can cause increased stiffness and swelling, combined with decreased mobility, dexterity, and range of motion. Not fun.
So what can people do? Some have proposed the use of arthritis or therapy gloves. These are a special type of glove which aims to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis. (Consult with your physician before embarking on any type of treatment. This article assumes your doctor or occupational therapist has already suggested the use of arthritis gloves).
How do arthritis gloves help?
Although it is not clear exactly how the gloves may benefit, it is suggested that the glove’s covering and compression help to retain the body’s natural heat. This increased temperature helps improves the blood flow and blood circulation, which can also help relax the tendons. The benefits don’t stop there, as this may improve flexibility and range of motion, all of which may help reduce the feelings of pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Types of Arthritis Gloves
They come in many forms and varieties. Thermal Gloves provide warmth, while Splint Gloves provide extra support. Compression Gloves provide stability and apply additional pressure, while Combination Gloves provide both heat and compression.
Arthritis gloves can differ in terms of their hand coverage, material, and particular specialty.
Regarding hand coverage, some gloves may cover the full palm and hand, whereas other gloves may leave the fingertips or fingers open, preserving the ability to still touch and grip naturally. Other gloves may focus only on the wrist, while some may cover the hand, wrist, and forearm.
There is a glove for everything. In addition to thermal gloves, compression gloves, splint gloves and combination gloves, some gloves provide a unique twist. They may contain copper or magnetic material, while other gloves may even vibrate or use infrared.
Material and Fabric
The quality of material used can help comfort and durability. Many gloves are made from a blended synthetic fabric, including nylon or spandex/elastane (Lycra), while some gloves use a natural fiber, such as 100% cotton.
While it is important that the gloves help retain body heat, it is also preferable that the selected fabric is somewhat breathable. Fabric is said to be breathable if can allow moisture vapor to pass through, in this case, we are talking about the transmission of sweat from the hand. Your choice of material may thus depend on the current weather and your planned level of activity. Often the material chosen is a matter of personal preference.
While it is important that the gloves help retain body heat, it is also preferable that the selected fabric is somewhat breathable. Fabric is said to be breathable if can allow moisture vapor to pass through, in this case, we are talking the transmission of hand sweat. Your choice of material may thus depend on the current weather and your planned level of activity. Often the material chosen is a matter of personal preference.[pullquote align=”normal”]By the year 2040, there will be nearly 80 million US adults suffering from some form of arthritis. [/pullquote]
Who uses these gloves?
Your doctor or occupational therapist may have recommended the use of arthritis gloves, perhaps if you have a common form of arthritis such as osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriatic arthritis.
Note! Arthritis gloves are not necessarily suitable for all types of hand conditions and ailments, so remember to consult with your doctor or physician before using arthritis gloves (according to an older study from 1992 compression gloves should be used with caution in patients with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome).
When should therapy gloves be worn?
Several studies have tried to determine whether arthritis gloves can benefit people living with arthritis. A review of studies concluded that the use of arthritis gloves could have a beneficial effect on patients with Rheumatoid arthritis, although the precise actions are still not clear.
According to the literature, wearing the gloves for a long enough duration is frequently recommended, for example, overnight for 8 hours. For overnight glove selection, full fingered gloves become a practical possibility.
In contrast, during the day you may want to consider some type of fingerless glove, as these will still retain the benefits of wearing arthritis gloves, while still enabling everyday usage of your hands and fingers.
Think of all the activities you have completed today. From waking up in the morning to washing and dressing. From preparing breakfast to now reading this article. It is likely that in each activity your hands have been essential to a successful performance of these tasks — whether this is opening drawers, fastening multiple buttons, or turning on stiff faucets — the use of your hands is taken for granted. For people suffering from arthritis of the hands, all these tasks can be challenging and often painful. Arthritis gloves are an attempt to alleviate these problems.
Arthritis Gloves – Styles and Sizing
The first arthritis gloves on the market prioritized the glove’s function over their appearance and style, as the number one objective was alleviating the symptoms of the disease. Nowadays there are plenty of well-designed and aesthetically pleasing gloves on the market, so you don’t have to sacrifice style over function or comfort. Today there are various styles, patterns, and colors available.
An important consideration in the choice of gloves is sizing and fit. It is easy to say that the gloves should neither be too tight nor too loose, but how do you go about finding your ‘Goldilocks’ gloves?
In general, you want a snug fit to ensure that you realize the full benefits of compression, remembering that compression gloves are designed to be a tighter fit. Depending on the store you could order several different sizes and then simply return those that don’t fit properly (remember to keep all the packaging and read our guide on returning products). A ‘Goldilocks’ Measuring Guide can help.
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According to the CDC, by the year 2040, there will be nearly 80 million US adults suffering from some form of arthritis. Clearly, arthritis is not going away and there is no cure on the horizon.
In addition to traditional medical treatments, arthritis gloves may provide a useful and complementary treatment for arthritis of the hand, helping to improve hand function and relieving the unfortunate pain, stiffness and swelling that those with arthritis must endure. The effective use of arthritis gloves can place control back in their hands.
Therapy gloves for patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a review