Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it affects at least 54 million adults. If you've suffered from arthritis in your hands, you know the pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion can be a constant frustration. Arthritis gloves are commonly recommended to help manage some symptoms. But do arthritis gloves work?
What Are Arthritis Gloves?
Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend that you try wearing these gloves to overcome some arthritis symptoms in your hands. They aren't designed to treat arthritis, but instead to help you manage some of the symptoms. You can find gloves with the following features, individually or combined:
- Splints to provide extra support
- Compression to alleviate pain
- Heat to lessen pain and stiffness
- Wrist wraps for additional support
Some gloves also contain copper, which is intended to lessen inflammation; however, research hasn't backed up these claims. You wear the gloves for eight hours at a time to get the most benefit, either during the day or while you sleep.
How Do Arthritis Gloves Work?
Compression and heat are known to increase circulation, thereby improving healing and easing pain and inflammation. Reducing these symptoms gives you more range of motion, less stiffness, and more grip strength. The gloves make these therapies convenient. You wear the gloves while sleeping and wake up with less stiffness, or wear them during the day and move a little easier.
Research does back up these claims. In one study in Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease, people who used the gloves reported improvements in pain, stiffness, and swelling. They saw increases in grip strength as well, but stopped short of experiencing improvements in overall hand function. The gloves aren't a cure-all, but they may help you get through the day a little easier.
Are Arthritis Gloves Right for Me?
It depends. Like many treatments, the gloves don't work for everyone. But it's a fairly small investment (most pairs cost between $12 and $40) to see if they provide you any relief. You can shop online on your own or ask your doctor for recommendations. Search around to find the features that work best for you. Here are some guidelines:
- Fit: The compression won't work if the gloves don't fit properly. Look for the right size or adjustable gloves.
- Fabric: You need to wear them for eight hours to get the most benefit, so having a breathable fabric is key. You don't want your hands to get too sweaty. Some gloves even have UV protection or odor-neutralizing fabrics. You'll also want a flexible fabric if you'll be wearing them during the day. Stiffer gloves lessen your range of motion and may work better if you plan to only wear them at night.
- Fingers: Most arthritis gloves are fingerless. This gives you the most freedom and range of motion if you're wearing them during the day. Full-finger gloves may work fine for you overnight.
- Features: Look at the level of compression and whether the gloves have heat therapy to decide what will best suit your symptoms.
If you're overwhelmed by the choices, talk to a doctor or a physical therapist for recommendations. They can also help you fit the gloves properly.