There’s no ‘hands free’ option when it comes to everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, daily beauty routines or simply getting dressed in the morning.

So pain and swelling in the joints can make the simplest thing like opening a can of soup or buttoning a blouse a slow and painful process; not to mention the frustration of not being able to force a favourite ring over a swollen finger.

Around 10 million Brits suffer from arthritis and it affects people of all ages, while the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint and makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness. The most commonly affected joints are in the hands and it tends to develop in adults (mainly women with a family history of the condition) in their late 40s or older.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people and usually starts when someone is aged between 40 and 50, and women are three times more likely to be affected than men. It occurs when the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling.


“Nearly 20% of over 50s in the UK live with osteoarthritis in the thumb, making everyday tasks such as cooking and dressing extremely difficult,” says Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation, Arthritis Research UK.

“The condition causes daily stiffness and pain, and after time, firm knobbly swellings form on the finger joints.”

Recent studies by researchers at the Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre at Keele have tested the effectiveness of joint protection and exercises, as well as thumb splinting for those living with the painful and debilitating condition.

Whilst there are various self-help options available, Carter says it’s important to note that everyone experiences pain in different ways, and recommends people speak to a health care professional to discuss the most appropriate option for them.

[Related story: Practical fashion and beauty tips for arthritis sufferers]

Arthritis Care have a range of exercises that can help and most of them can be done while you’re watching television or sitting at a desk.

In the meantime, here are 5 movements to help you get to grips with the condition…

1. If you do a lot of repetitive tasks like typing on a keyboard, sewing or gripping utensils, the pain can get worse, so take a break and get into the habit of stretching your hands out wide and holding your fingers straight to the very tips.

2. Making a fist can reduce the stiffness. Hold your hand up straight and slowly bend it into a fist and place your thumb on the outside of your hand. Open your hand back up and straighten the fingers. Repeat a few times in both hands.

3. Finger exercises are good to do while sitting down. Hold your hand up straight and bend you index finger down toward the palm. Hold the position for a couple of seconds and then straighten it. Repeat with each finger and then do the same with the other hand.

4. Try not to take your thumb for granted. Bending it inward toward your palm and stretching it toward the bottom of your pinky can really help. Hold the position for a second or two and repeat 10 times before doing the exercise on the other hand.

5. Sitting at a table can be handy(!). Rest your forearm on a flat surface with your palm down. Keep your little finger on the table and turn your hand so the palm faces up. Repeat a few times on each hand.

For further details see Arthritis Care’s factsheet, ‘Osteoarthritis of the hand and wrist’: For more information visit or call the Helpline on 0808 800 4050

Do you suffer with arthritis? How do you ease the pain? Tell us in the comments box below