Arthritis Gloves: Can They Reduce Pain, Swelling, or Stiffness?

Do arthritis gloves work? The short answer to that question is “maybe”—but the real answer depends on the design of individual arthritis gloves, how and when they're used, and the person wearing them.

arthritis gloves

Research may be lacking when it comes to the effectiveness of arthritis gloves for relieving pain, but this brand, IMAK Compression Arthritis Gloves, earned an Arthritis Foundation “Ease of Use Commendation.”

Photo courtesy of Brownmed

The evidence is far from compelling, but a product called arthritis gloves may reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling in the hands caused by rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

There are several varieties of arthritis gloves, each designed to address different arthritis symptoms. Thermal gloves increase circulation and keep the hands warm. Compression gloves may relieve pain by applying pressure to affected joints. Glove splints give extra support to hands weakened by arthritis. Combination gloves offer multiple features.

What the Evidence Says

The mechanism is not clear, but arthritis gloves with a vibrating device reduced pain sensitivity in a study of 60 women with osteoarthritis, according to The Journal of Pain (April 2017). An earlier study published in Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease found that people with rheumatoid arthritis who wore arthritis gloves had reductions in pain, stiffness, and swelling, but experienced only marginal improvement in hand function.

And the University of Maryland Medical Center reviewed two studies and found that overnight use of compression gloves reduced pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis in the fingers.

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Guidelines for Use

NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT COPPER-INFUSED GLOVES

Be wary of arthritis gloves claiming to be “copper-infused.” Not only is there a lack of evidence to support copper’s pain-relieving properties, one manufacturer had to pay $1.35 million dollars to settle charges brought by the FTC for false advertising claims.

Each type of arthritis glove comes with specific instructions, but the general consensus is that they should be worn for eight-hour periods, which for practical purposes means a good time to wear them is at night. There is no hard evidence that wearing the gloves for an hour or so at a time provides any relief, but anything that distracts a person from pain is usually good.

The fit of arthritis gloves is important. If they are too tight, they can cut off or impede circulation. Gloves that are too loose are not likely to apply enough pressure or give enough support to help. Stay away from “one-size-fits-all” gloves. Try them on before making a purchase.

Compression gloves are designed to apply pressure where it hurts the most. That is usually one, two, or all three of the joints, beginning at the base (knuckles). All of them should be covered by the glove. Arthritis gloves, including compression gloves, should be open at the fingertips so the user has a sense of feel to perform normal activities.

“Ease of Use” Commendation

SOURCES & RESOURCES

To find out more about arthritis, please visit these posts:

Look online and at the point of purchase for product reviews and endorsements. The Arthritis Foundation’s “Ease of Use Commendation” recognizes products proven to help people who have arthritis and other physical limitations. The recognition comes only after a product has been independently tested by experts and evaluated by people with arthritis.

The commendation has been given to Brownmed’s IMAK Compression Arthritis Gloves, which are designed to help relieve aches, pains, and stiffness associated with hand arthritis.

Arthritis Gloves: Cost vs. Benefit

Arthritis compression gloves are relatively inexpensive—$20 to $30 a pair, on average—but vibrating gloves cost much more.

Unless they fit so tightly that they cause circulation problems, arthritis gloves are not harmful and may be worth a try. They don’t have to be effective for everyone. They just have to work for you.

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