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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Feb 14, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

So, I got diagnosed with osteoarthritis yesterday. The doc said the diagnosis was easy, with both Heberden's nodes on my right index and middle DIP, and a Bouchard's node forming on my left middle PIP.

Does anyone else climb with mild to advanced osteoarthritis in their hands and fingers? I'm curious as to how one deals with decreased range of motion and increased pain and swelling- if at all.

Are there any concoctions or secrets to managing it once it becomes worse? I've been assured by my doctor that it most certainly will become worse and that climbing will most likely speed up the degeneration of the joints in my hands and fingers.

Bummer.


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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Feb 14, 2013

Jake,

I have severe arthritis in my shoulder. "Partially frozen shoulder." I live on ibuprofen (400mg 2X/day) and work around it. Although I have limited range in that shoulder, I do the best I can. There aren't really any magic fixes for osteoarthritis. I realize it's not hands or fingers, but pain is the determining factor in how much you can use it.

You could see a second orthopedist for a second opinion, if you don't have full confidence in the ortho you're using now.


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Feb 14, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Thanks for the response Frank. That's pretty much what the ortho told me. He suggested the "alternative" regimen of glucosamine and fish oil, but stressed that results vary and nothing can be positively determined to make a difference. He said pretty much what you're doing (along with some range of motion exercises), although he recommended starting with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and progressing to Ibuprofen and/or naproxen if inflammation gets worse. He told me to not take Ibuprofen or naproxen regularly because it's bad for kidneys etc. You must have a GI tract like a bear trap.

Osteoarthritis runs in my family, but I didn't think it would hit at 37. The only good thing right now is that I don't feel it while I'm climbing. It's been developing full speed over the past few months and getting steadily worse.

That sucks about your shoulder man. I don't know what's worse, shoulder or fingers/hands. I'm almost positive your pain is probably worse, as you sound like you've been dealing with it for a while. Way to hang in there and keep climbing. Hopefully I'll be able to manage and do the same. It's pretty disconcerting. There are worse things though I suppose. Again, thanks for the response. It helps to know I'm not the only one dealing with it.


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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Feb 14, 2013

Welcome to the Old Guys Club (although I'm much older than you). I noticed my shoulder problem when I was about 40. My ortho told me there's no real evidence the glucosamine/chondroitin works, but he said I could try it anyway.

I used it for five years and it did nothing. I wanted to give it a fair shot, so that's why I took it so long. Some people say that it worked wonders for them, and it's hard to argue with that. But it did nothing for me.

I also went to a PT for a few visits and got some range of motion exercises to do at home. Stopped those after a few years. My range of motion is not getting worse over time, which is nice.

Although ibuprofen can damage kidneys, acetaminophen is bad for the liver. Doctor told me that studies show the 800 mg day I take of the ibu is OK.

There are various ointments, creams and heat packs that might provide some temporary relief, but I don't use those anymore.

I can lift my right arm to 110 degrees (straight up over my head would be 180), so any big right reaches are out of the question and it's limiting in climbing. I still have fun!


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Feb 14, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Right on man. That's good to hear. I imagine (just judging on where the most pain is so far) that finger locks and crimpers will be the most painful as time goes on. Anyway, thanks again for responding and it's good to know that people are out there climbing with it and managing.


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By john strand
From southern colo
Feb 14, 2013

i got osteo ages ago (in my 20's) lot's of crimping and LOTS of climbing maybe . Range of motion (DON'T snap your knuckles) and Biofreeze works for me.
Ibu won't kill you,, it actually works because of the anti inflammatory action (tylenol doesn't do this)

Keepan eye on other joints- my hips both went because of arthritis


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Feb 14, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Thanks John. Good information. I'll try the biofreeze. Hopefully I'll have good results too. I appreciate it.


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By Rob M
From Fullerton, ca
Feb 25, 2013

Ask your Doc for a topical ketoprofen/lidoderm cream. I use it before I climb. It is expensive, but worth it. You have to go to an old school "compunding" pharmacy so the can mix it.


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By Just Solo
From Colorado Springs
Feb 25, 2013

Ask your doctor about Voltaren Gel. It is a topical anti inflammatory designed for use on superficial joints, hands, knees, etc. It works well. I had my hip resurfaced a year and a half ago due to arthritis. It's pretty good to go these days. It was very bad at the point I had surgery. Try your best to keep up the mobility in the joints and use whatever works for pain/etc. The bad thing about arthritis is, it is what it is. It can't get better, but you can hold it at bay for awhile. Look into your diet etc. and see if you are creating an inflammatory environment within your body. Sugar is one of the worst culprits. Any type of sugar. Fructose being one of the worst. Alcohol is a bad deal too... Management is key...


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Feb 25, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Thanks for the responses and advice. Diet is number one. It could use some adjustment, but it isn't terrible overall. I'll look into the topicals as well. I got some of the Biofreeze John, and although the effects for relief of my hands is marginal, everywhere else that stuff works wonders.

I think the bottom line is that I have to structure what I do a little more, and go for less time, but more quality. Thanks again for everyone's replies.


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By Greg Kimble
From Colorado
Feb 27, 2013

I've got osteo in my fingers and knees. It sucks balls. What sucks even more is that more than likely, the way your joints feel right now is probably the best they will feel...ever. I know that's a bummer but realistic. What you CAN do is try to stop the process from progressing any further.

IBU works well but go easy on the dosing as it can lead to gastro issues. Don't take it daily and if you take it more than about 4 days a wk keep it under 400 mg a day. You can ice your fingers (carefully) after climbing, dipping them in cold water for a few minutes is usually enough. Rest days also become really important. You can try heating them on your rest days to increase blood flow. Also, I've found taping my fingers helps, but honestly that's probably more mental than actual.

I've found diet is the biggest thing to help me personally. You can try supplements. Everyone recommends glucosamine and chondroitin but research doesn't really support it's use. It rarely does better than placebo. You can easily find them combined in one tablet. Most people neglect Vit C And E. Vitamin C plays a big part in repairing cartilage and collagen. Vit E works with vitamin C to do its jobs more efficiently. If you take them as a supplement, make sure you take them with a fat source to improve absorption. Never seen any research on vit C and E for osteo (I've definitely looked) but those nutrients are a big part of cartilage building and couldn't hurt. Honestly though, if you look at a lot of research on taking supplements it doesn't look good. There's a big question on the bioavailability of supplement form nutrients and whether they are helping or hurting...like a lot of research indicates possible negative effects of supplements. There are a lot of social questions with that though. In the end, the best way to get all your essential vitamins is to eat a lot of fruits and veggies. Lots and lots of FRESH fruits and veggies.

Keep in mind that most of the 'tips' people give try to minimize inflammation but they do little for the degeneration of the joints. Inflammation is painful but is the symptoms of the problem and not the problem it's self. Pain management is a temporary bandaid. The only longterm help you can do is try to improve your joints ability to repair. Increase your dietary intake of vitamin C, E, and collagen, increase blood flow to joints and increase rest days, hydrate like a camel everyday (rest days and climbing days), try to be as ergonomic as possible at work especially if you spend a lot of time typing or something of that nature, and stretch your fingers really well. Do it slow and DON'T pop them. Also, Couldn't hurt to kill your first born, spill the blood of a virgin, or sacrifice a goat...

Sorry for this being such a long post but I know that nagging, painful stiffness in your hands is a real downer. Hate to see a fellow climber with the pain. Hope you can power through it and find something that helps. If you find something that helps you that doesn't get mentioned, you should post it up.


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By Just Solo
From Colorado Springs
Feb 27, 2013

Greg Kimble wrote:
I've got osteo in my fingers and knees. It sucks balls. What sucks even more is that more than likely, the way your joints feel right now is probably the best they will feel...ever. I know that's a bummer but realistic. What you CAN do is try to stop the process from progressing any further. IBU works well but go easy on the dosing as it can lead to gastro issues. Don't take it daily and if you take it more than about 4 days a wk keep it under 400 mg a day. You can ice your fingers (carefully) after climbing, dipping them in cold water for a few minutes is usually enough. Rest days also become really important. You can try heating them on your rest days to increase blood flow. Also, I've found taping my fingers helps, but honestly that's probably more mental than actual. I've found diet is the biggest thing to help me personally. You can try supplements. Everyone recommends glucosamine and chondroitin but research doesn't really support it's use. It rarely does better than placebo. You can easily find them combined in one tablet. Most people neglect Vit C And E. Vitamin C plays a big part in repairing cartilage and collagen. Vit E works with vitamin C to do its jobs more efficiently. If you take them as a supplement, make sure you take them with a fat source to improve absorption. Never seen any research on vit C and E for osteo (I've definitely looked) but those nutrients are a big part of cartilage building and couldn't hurt. Honestly though, if you look at a lot of research on taking supplements it doesn't look good. There's a big question on the bioavailability of supplement form nutrients and whether they are helping or hurting...like a lot of research indicates possible negative effects of supplements. There are a lot of social questions with that though. In the end, the best way to get all your essential vitamins is to eat a lot of fruits and veggies. Lots and lots of FRESH fruits and veggies. Keep in mind that most of the 'tips' people give try to minimize inflammation but they do little for the degeneration of the joints. Inflammation is painful but is the symptoms of the problem and not the problem it's self. Pain management is a temporary bandaid. The only longterm help you can do is try to improve your joints ability to repair. Increase your dietary intake of vitamin C, E, and collagen, increase blood flow to joints and increase rest days, hydrate like a camel everyday (rest days and climbing days), try to be as ergonomic as possible at work especially if you spend a lot of time typing or something of that nature, and stretch your fingers really well. Do it slow and DON'T pop them. Also, Couldn't hurt to kill your first born, spill the blood of a virgin, or sacrifice a goat... Sorry for this being such a long post but I know that nagging, painful stiffness in your hands is a real downer. Hate to see a fellow climber with the pain. Hope you can power through it and find something that helps. If you find something that helps you that doesn't get mentioned, you should post it up.


Greg, good advice, but one thing is in error. There is no repairing a joint with DJD. There is only management, and attempting to hold off the inevitable as long as possible. I feel for you guys with DJD in your hands. That sucks. At least for me, my joint could be replaced. Hands can't. My process went about 10-12 yrs when the very first symptom appeared. I thought it was just a muscle strain. Keep up the good work and the range of motion. Movement (within reason) and good therapy will give you more years.


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Feb 28, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Greg and Solo, thanks for both the replies. I was really surprised when I was diagnosed with it. Although I had joint problems for years from my shoulders to my ankles, OA never occurred to me. I really abused the hell out of my body between skateboarding when I was young (teens), USMC in my twenties and relentless hours of basketball until my early thirties. I always attributed my pain and inflammation to that.

The onset of OA in my hands was relatively quick. It was almost as if it developed within a month or so (when in reality I know it's been developing the entire time, only just now did the symptoms become obvious). I went from no soreness, except for topical skin issues to inflammation, the development of Heberden's and Bouchard's nodes, pain, and decreased range of motion all literally within 30 days.

When I was diagnosed, I immediately began researching causes, symptoms, and treatments. Unfortunately everywhere I went I found that a cure is nowhere to be found- and treatment can be dodgy at best.

Greg, your long post is much appreciated. I have found through the research I have done that you are spot on. I'm a relatively healthy guy, but I have made a few adjustments with my diet and supplements. The biggest adjustment that will be the most difficult I think is implementing structured training. It may be a blessing in disguise though. I never cared a ton about progressing through the grades and becoming a super strong and ballsy climber. I just generally get on stuff that I like, and kind of willy-nilly it. Although, these things have come slowly over time just because I'm avid, I always just had a good time challenging myself at whatever level I happened to be at.

Maybe by being forced to consciously think about what time I have and how to best utilize it I will see more specific results as far as performance. Then again, maybe not. Regardless, I appreciate the time you guys took to respond and share your wisdom pertaining to OA. I hope your management of it gives you plenty of good days far into the future.


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By john strand
From southern colo
Feb 28, 2013

Jake- the dosing of Ibu is a very personal thing. i know folks who puke from 400mg and me,, i have taken it for years , up to 2400mg/24 hours. You don;t know until.
Vit C can be great, but be careful with any other drugs esp those for gout and such. You will puke.

Garlic, not many processed foods and such are a good idea for anyone. I think a variety is best.

good luck

ps watch out with glucosemine if you have a shellfish allergy-not good


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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Feb 28, 2013
Day Lily.

Its been said but to solidify the info even more: glucosamine, fish oil and (for me at least) popping OTC pain killers daily (not healthy). I'm 28 and have had osteoarthritis since 23 (disgnosed at least). Glucosamine is a "life saver" for me. Give it time to kick in (2 weeks) and you'll (hopefully) notice your aches and pains gone or mitigated at least.

For me I don't run nearly as much as id like but besides that a healthy diet, good stretching (good = quality, taking time) and what's already been mentioned should hopefully not hold you back too much if at all. Good luck man!


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By john strand
From southern colo
Feb 28, 2013

All true--- whatever works in my book

I just had my second hip replaced and the Doc said ;you know, climbing probably has something to do with this" YUP- that's why I'm getting it replaced, to do it all over again !


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Feb 28, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Here's my report regarding drugs/supplements mentioned. Glucosamine/Chondroitin/fish oil- Used to work wonders on bad rotator cuffs from lifting weights/weighted dips, etc. I've been on a steady regimen for about a month now, and haven't noticed any difference. However, since there don't seem to be any negative effects, so I'll continue the regimen. Topical stuff seems to work well, and ice.

I don't take IBU unless pain and swelling is present and is really bothering me or significantly decreasing range of motion. I take it 400mg at a time, and don't take it on a regular basis, just as needed.

Other than that, I'm trying to all but eliminate sugar and processed foods and overly acidic foods as well. The biggest change for me will come in changing my climbing habits.

Thanks again for all the replies. I appreciate the insights of those that are OA veterans.


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By Just Solo
From Colorado Springs
Feb 28, 2013

Jake and everyone else, take a look at supplements that contain hyaluronic acid. This is the same material that is injected into the knees as synvisc a sort of artificial synovial fluid. It can be very beneficial for superficial joints, though it is not completely proven it is effective orally, similar to other supps. I know I've been using it for some time and my knees do feel better. But then again, I too have altered my training to be more concerned about proper recovery, more than getting thrashed. One would think I would know better, since I do it for a living!!


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By J Watts
Feb 28, 2013

This may be way off-base but...
My girlfriend uses a hand lotion called CeraVe that contains hyaluronic acid(I'm not sure how much it contains). It costs around $15/bottle. Walgreens makes a similar product under their brand name for a few bucks less. She uses it for her eczema and it works amazingly well compared to other products(FWIW, ClimbOn works wonders on eczema also). Not sure if that would help you, but it couldn't hurt to try it. If it didn't do anything for your OA, you would still have a nice moisturizing product.


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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Feb 28, 2013
Day Lily.

Jake, also for minor (but very relaxing which can help, placebo or not) pain "Tiger balm" (maybe "Tigerbalm") helps. Get the stainless if an option. Marijuanas been proven to be an effective pain reliever for 1000s of years now so that also can be a legit use (I'm not joking) of an illegal substance. I've known old Mexican ladies who soak fat buds in oil and then rest it on the soar area. Your body absorbs and relieves pain for hours if not days.

I'm not experienced with this but if you're still not satisfied with your comfort level in your hands after honest effort of what's been described here, try accupuncture. Some people swear by it. Worth it I'm sure if all else fails you.


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By Tom-onator
From This Galaxy
Feb 28, 2013
Tom-onator

I am a sheet metal worker by trade. This year I started having severe pain in my right hand on the largest knuckle of the middle finger. I tried a few over the counter remedies that sort of worked, but mostly left me smelling like menthol.

Then I tried "Australian Dream" since it had an empty jar satisfaction guarantee. Been using this product for several months now with good results. Most of the pain has diminished and I now have full range of motion. $17.00 for the small jar and $35-ish for the larger size at Wal-World. I noticed results within a few days of continual use.

Hope this helps

www.australiandream.com



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By rjacobs
Jun 16, 2014
Um, me.

A bit over a year has gone by since this thread was active... I'm just wondering how things are progressing for you Jake?

I was diagnosed not too long ago with pretty much the same problem. I have had issues and swelling and pain in my fingers for years (correlated very closely with how hard I was climbing) but was only officially able to attribute it to OA after talking to a doctor. I'm only in my 30s so I too was pretty shocked at this diagnosis. Anyway, my doc did not directly say climbing was a cause of the OA, but he did say that it was going to make my symptoms get worse and worse (I guess that's obvious). Despite this, I'm still pretty scared about what kind of lasting damage climbing may do, but I suppose that's a whole topic in itself. I've just been trying to sort out the best ways to manage the issue for both the sort and long term... and I've only just begun to scratch the surface on what may or may not work for me personally.

Anyway, I just wanted to see if anyone is still following along on this topic and if there were any updates.


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jun 16, 2014
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

My fingers have not gotten any worse, and the pain is manageable. The stiffness is actually more of an issue than the associated pain. The key I think is movement. When you stop moving, the symptoms can compound. A few times a day (habit now) I press my fingers together (hands opposed) and kind of hyper extend them. It seems to help- like a stretching exercise for your fingers.

Other than that, I ice after a long trip climbing successive days in a row, and administer Vitamin I when pain is persistent. So far, it seems to affect me very little- either that or I've just gotten accustomed to the relatively minor annoyance of having swollen and sometimes painful phalanges. I'm sure there are plenty out there that have it worse than me and still manage to crank harder.

The initial permanence of the diagnosis was a bummer, knowing that I'd have it forever, and it would never get better but honestly it hasn't prevented me from progressing- volume or difficulty. It's one of those things that just comes with age I suppose. You wake up creaking and popping and stiff sometimes and you just have to do little things to work the kinks out and you're good to go.


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By Mark NH
Jun 16, 2014

No arthritis thankfully however lots of tendinitis, bursitis and even frozen shoulder over the years. Since I started taking glucosamine and chondroitin years ago I've had no major issues with the above except for occasional tendinitis from overuse - mostly elbows.

I've recently been using Wong To Yick Wood Lock Oil - some topical Chinese rub on that works wonders! I'm sold on this stuff.

Best bet is to try Amazon for a US seller (I found one in NY) as most is shipped from Hong Kong.


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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jun 16, 2014
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Yeah, I've noticed the same thing. My tendons, specifically the extensor group on the top of the forearm are more of a limiting factor in my climbing than the arthritis. Every time I bump up volume or difficulty, or start training with any kind of specificity, I get pain and tightness in the tops of my forearms from below my wrist to almost my elbow. The pain is concentrated more when I release a hold than when I'm on.

I've also seemed to develop a bit of tendinitis in my left lateral condyle (tennis elbow). I'm reasonably sure these tight and sore tendons are the culprit.

It seems as if it's just overuse, but it is frustrating at times because I'm pretty vigilant concerning gradual increase, etc. Basically, I just take a few days off until the symptoms subside, and in the interim mix in pronation exercises, stretches, and deep tissue massage. It always gets better, but it's a pain in the ass doing the progress/regress & rest shenanigans.

Anyway, sorry for the deviation from osteoarthritis. It's Mark's fault. If anyone has this same issue however, I'd love to hear from you and how you deal with it.


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By Tom-onator
From This Galaxy
Jun 16, 2014
Tom-onator

I stopped using the Australian Dream rub about 8 months ago. The arthritis pain in my knuckles diminished rapidly to the point I was using it every other day or so to keep the pain at bay.
Then I was down to once a week application. I still have a half empty container in my medicine chest if the symptoms come back around, but haven't used the rub for months with no re-occurrence.

As always, YMMV.


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