Do arthritis compression gloves work?
You must be asking yourself this question a lot.
Compression gloves are used by people with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, pregnant women, graphic designers, and gamers!
So, apart from the fact that they all wear those gloves, what do all of these people have in common?
You guessed it right: joint pain!
In this article, we’ll learn more about compression gloves, the science behind them, and whether they work or if it’s just hype.
More importantly, we will learn more about their applications in various conditions and when it is best to wear them.
Finally, we will be looking at the best features you should look for when looking for the best compression gloves.
What are compression gloves?
They cover your mid-forearm to about ¾ of your fingers.
Unlike usual gloves that cover your fingertips, these gloves expose your fingertips to allow you to do everything while you wear them freely.
Moreover, they are designed to reduce the pain and stiffness associated with hand conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, De Quervain’s tendinosis, and trigger fingers.
There are two types of arthritis gloves:
Those arthritis gloves are designed to keep your hands warm while maintaining mobility and flexibility.
These are the ones that compress or put pressure on your fingers and joints.
You can always select a type that combines both.
But how do compression gloves work to help with arthritis and other hand conditions?
Let’s find out.
Compression gloves for arthritis…Know more!
Compression gloves are sometimes referred to as arthritis gloves or therapy gloves.
They work similarly to other compression products, such as compression socks, stockings, knee compression wraps, compression shorts, and pants.
They all work the same way: they apply pressure, increasing the blood flow and temperature of the body part they’re designed to help.
So, what is this like for arthritis?
Arthritis is a disease that attacks your joints (where two bones meet).
It breaks down the smooth lining at the end of your bones, which keeps things flowing freely.
When these linings, known as cartilage, break down, the bones rub against each other.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (the chronic immune type)
- Osteoarthritis (OA) (the degenerative type)
- Psoriatic arthritis (which affects the skin and joints of the fingers)
- Arthritis of the hand causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity.
And the more it progresses, the harder it is for your hand to keep up with the everyday tasks such as laundry, washing dishes, and reading your books as it used to.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, “about half of all women and one-quarter of all men will experience the stiffness and pain of osteoarthritis (OA) of the hands by the age of 85.” (1)
Compression gloves have been prescribed to arthritis patients since the 1980s to ease the pain, support the joints, and reduce swelling.
They press the excess fluid out of hand, thereby reducing the swelling.
Additionally, they are usually worn overnight while sleeping to help decrease stiffness and hand fatigue in the morning.
The pressure, support, and warmth offered by the compression gloves help ease the pain and relieve arthritis symptoms.
They allow you to grip, touch, and feel things and efficiently complete your daily tasks.
But what do science and medicine say about them?
The science behind compression gloves for arthritis: do they work?
In 2014, papers revealed that wearing compression gloves could benefit patients with RA, with many patients experiencing improvement in their hand symptoms.
This improvement included reducing the pain, stiffness, and swelling in hand. (2)
However, in 2021, a new randomized, controlled clinical trial found that the pressure caused by compression gloves wasn’t the reason they relieved the symptoms.
The combination of their warmth and the positive impact and feeling that they help with the pain makes them valuable for these hand conditions.
Therefore, medical professionals recommend them and advise patients to wear them more often to help ease their pain and restore hand function and dexterity.
Still, they emphasize that arthritis gloves don’t cure or change the course of arthritis; they do not treat inflammation, prevent damage, or reverse existing damage.
The bottom line:
Even though many people with RA and OA around the world experience pain and symptom relief when wearing compression gloves, the studies about their effectiveness so far are inconclusive (3)
Let’s take a closer look at why you should wear them!
The benefits of wearing compression gloves
One in every five adults is diagnosed with arthritis, and almost 300,000 children and infants are affected.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the most significant cause of disability.
Adding to the problem, the economic burden of the disease affecting people’s lives and making them skip work or be unproductive in one way or another is huge.
That’s why compression gloves are essential in improving people’s lives.
Let’s see how.
Compression gloves help relieve the pain.
The most common thing about arthritis disease is the pain people experience.
Some people, especially those with rheumatoid arthritis, can spend their entire lives in pain.
It may come and go, worsen with repetitive hand motions, and ease at rest; it can even wake you up at night.
Furthermore, the more the disease progresses, the more the pain is constant.
Even with pain relievers and drugs, it is still there, which makes going on with your daily activities annoying, with the pain lingering and pulsating in your fingers all the time.
Compression gloves help ease the pain and take that burden off your fingers.
You can even tell the difference after the first time you put them on.
Moreover, using them consistently and for long periods will significantly reduce the pain and improve your hand’s flexibility.
Compression gloves reduce stiffness.
One of the symptoms of arthritis is morning stiffness; you can hear your joints rubbing together, grinding, and clicking or cracking.
Furthermore, your hand is stiff, and you can’t quickly move your fingers.
When wearing arthritis gloves overnight, you can move your fingers quickly and without stiffness.
Compression gloves reduce swelling.
Rheumatic arthritis is an inflammatory disease; it makes your joints inflamed.
The body responds to inflammation by swelling and making your joints red and tender.
When your fingers are red, fluffy, and swollen, doing even the simplest things is uncomfortable and painful.
Compression gloves can help by reducing the swelling and draining the fluids by pressing them gently.
Compression gloves keep your hands warm.
When the joints keep rubbing against each other, the narrow, small vessels inside your hands become inflamed.
This can decrease blood supply and flow to your fingertips, resulting in a cold hand, pain, and impaired hand function.
Arthritis gloves, if properly fitted, improve circulation in your hands.
Furthermore, because they are usually thermo-isolated, they keep your hand warm in addition to the warmth of pressing on your hand.
This warmth and enhanced circulation make your hands feel better and allow them to heal.
Compression gloves help you with your everyday activities
When your hand is swollen, in pain, and stiff, it becomes weak, and your grip over things may not be the same.
Opening a jam jar or driving your car can be painful and dangerous.
Wearing compression gloves for arthritis helps reduce this weakness, enhance your grip, and ease the pain without covering your fingertips.
Wearing them has been shown in some studies to improve hand grip strength and dexterity.
Compression gloves can be used for many conditions
Not only can these gloves help with arthritis, but they can also be of great benefit for other conditions.
De Quervain’s tendinosis is the most common type of tendon inflammation that affects the wrist and base of the thumb and makes them swell.
It’s common in activities like racquet sports (tennis, racquetball), skiing, and using hammers and heavy tools.
Trigger finger: A condition where the base of the thumb or finger gets stuck in a bent position, and you can feel soreness, pain, and stiffness, primarily upon gripping or bending.
Compression gloves can help in these conditions.
They are widely used by gamers, graphic designers, writers, musicians, etc.
These jobs require repetitive movements that stress their wrists and fingers when using the keyboard, mouse, controllers, etc.
Compression gloves help alleviate the pain and stiffness resulting from these activities.
Compression gloves for pregnancy
During pregnancy, many women face circulation issues.
This could lead to varicose veins, fluid retention, and swelling in both hands and feet, which can be very annoying to deal with on top of everything changing with the body and hormones.
Compression gloves help hugely when it comes to these problems.
They reduce the swelling in your hand, making it easier for you to do everyday tasks.
Additionally, they can help even after pregnancy because your body may need time to restore balance, and the swelling won’t go away quickly.
At the same time, you will be picking up, feeding your baby, or trying to change their diapers.
You certainly cannot do this with swollen, aching fingers.
Compression gloves come in handy for supporting your wrist and helping you feel more comfortable.
Compression garments, like gloves, sleeves, socks, or stockings, are safe and easy ways to reduce the risk of developing varicose veins and lowering the risk of blood clots, and they’re used by pregnant women all the time. (4)
Many women develop tunnel carpal syndrome-like symptoms during pregnancy and start using compression gloves for them.
What is tunnel carpal syndrome, and how effective are compression gloves treating it?
The answers are right below.
Compression gloves for carpal tunnel syndrome
If you have been looking for compression gloves lately, you must have encountered “carpal tunnel compression gloves.”
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is expected when the median nerve (the nerve running from your forearm to the palm of your hand) is pressured or squeezed at the wrist area.
This nerve provides feeling to the palm side of the thumb and the index, middle, and part of the ring fingers.
It also controls some small muscles at the base of the wrist.
The median nerve and tendons controlling the hand lie in the narrow passageway of the ligaments and the bone at the base of your hand.
This passage is called the carpal tunnel; that’s where the name comes from. (6)
CTS can develop due to many factors, such as a mechanical injury or trauma to the wrist, rheumatoid arthritis, repeated use of vibrating tools, and fluid collection during pregnancy.
In other words, CTS is often the result of a combination of factors, but it’s mainly caused by the nerve being squeezed repeatedly.
What happens when you squeeze a nerve?
Numbness, tingling (like pins and needles), and weakness in the hand (usually the thumb and index finger) and the wrist
These are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome; they usually appear during the night.
Furthermore, this could develop into pain that makes it difficult to grip things and practice normal daily activities such as holding your favorite cup of coffee, playing tennis, writing on your laptop, or pruning the beautiful roses in your garden.
Although people usually shake out the numbness in their hands, the pain gradually develops, and the numbness becomes constant.
When things get even worse, and the CTS is left untreated, some people lose the sensation or function of their hands.
However, no worries.
The syndrome can be prevented and even treated; the sooner, the better.
Prevention can take the form of simple changes in your activities: improving your postures, keeping your hands warm, and avoiding bending and exhausting your wrist.
While treatment can include things like wrist splinting, over-the-counter medications, and corticosteroids for inflammation.
You may wonder about carpal tunnel compression gloves—do they genuinely relieve pain and improve CTS symptoms?
Let’s find out.
How effective are carpal tunnel compression gloves?
CTS can occur in various occupations because they require rapid, repetitive movements and pressure on the hands, fingers, and wrist.
As mentioned above, these occupations include typists, video gamers, hairdressers, dentists, knitters, truck drivers, graphic designers, and musicians.
So, they should all wear carpal compression gloves, right?
Well, the answer to this is no!
Let’s see why.
A wrist splint is one of the most effective methods to relieve the pain of CTS.
You wear this at night to stop the wrist from moving and bending; it keeps the wrist in a straight or neutral position.
Therefore, relieving the pressure on the nerve.
The use of splinting is usually confused with the help of compression gloves; however, they are not the same.
The splints may appear to be gloves, but they are not.
The splint will help your nerve heal and elevate your pain.
On the other hand, compression gloves can make the problem worse.
Unlike joint arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, in CTS, the fingers and hands are not swollen; they feel like they are.
Compression gloves “Compress” the hands to reduce the swelling.
Moreover, the last thing someone with CTS needs is more pressure on the wrist and fingers.
And that’s where the conflict lies.
Compression gloves increase pressure on the nerve, which is already pressurized and suffocating, exacerbating numbness and pain.
Additionally, they stop wrist movement, preventing the fluid around the nerves from moving to reduce the pressure.
So, imagine your nerve is already under pressure, you add more stress to it, and you prevent the fluids from naturally relieving the pressure.
The next thing is the pain shoots and even worsens, and your CTS worsens.
With all this in mind, carpal tunnel compression gloves aren’t as effective in treating CTS as they claim.
The manufacturers of these gloves can’t validate such claims because, as you can see, they don’t treat the syndrome, and there is no proven research that they do.
But how do people who use them feel better?
Compression gloves keep your hand warm, speeding up the nerve-healing process.
However, the pain relief given by compression gloves is temporary.
Because it’s just a false positive feeling driven by the claims and advertisements that may give people a sense of relief when putting on those so-called “carpal tunnel compression gloves.”
If you believe it works, most probably will.
But you can only trick the mind for so long; the pain will still be there, and it might even be worse than before.
The bottom line is:
While compression gloves are suitable for arthritis, they aren’t practical for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Other than providing the warmth needed for your nerve to heal, they only make things worse because they compress the nerve, causing pain and tingling and making the syndrome even worse.
Now, let’s see how you should choose the best compression gloves for arthritis, not for CTS.
How to select the best compression gloves?
Before buying and using a compression glove, you must always consult a healthcare professional.
Especially for people who have carpal tunnel syndrome, skin disorders, poor circulation, or vascular issues.
Also, you may have to use and try on different types until you find the one that works best for you.
Below, we will let you know the essential features you should consider when buying and deciding on compression gloves.
Like most glove types, compression gloves are not one-size-fits-all because hand sizes, pain levels, and treatment goals vary.
The most important thing when selecting your compression gloves is the sizing.
Because if you select the wrong size, it could either be ineffective or increase your pain.
The key to size is compression.
Please ensure the gloves you wear fit properly and feel snug enough to compress your fingers comfortably but not so tight that they cause pain or block blood flow to your fingers.
Make sure the seams of the gloves are on the outside so there is not too much pressure.
Also, they shouldn’t be so loose that they become ineffective.
So, make sure you either try them on before buying or measure your hands correctly according to the size charts provided by the manufacturers.
Full fingers vs. fingerless
As we’ve seen, thermal gloves for arthritis can cover your entire finger, wrists, and forearm, making them ineffective for daily tasks.
On the other hand, fingerless or half-finger gloves still cover the wrist and sometimes come with extra-long sleeves.
This gives you the freedom to touch and hold things with your fingers and the comfort and pain relief you need.
So they can be easy to use while doing your daily tasks.
Most probably, you’ll wear those gloves for an extended time.
That’s why you must ensure they are breathable materials because thermal types can make your hands hot during warm weather.
Compression gloves with breathable materials help keep your hands comfortable but not sweaty.
Compression gloves made of a cotton blend are more breathable and easier to clean.
Meanwhile, those with higher nylon or spandex content have better compression.
Usually, compression gloves will be used for months; for easier cleaning, go for the ones that can be machine washed.
Moreover, ensure you follow the instructions, such as washing them on a delicate cycle, using gentle washing powders, and avoiding fabric conditioners, as they may wear the gloves faster.
You should also let them dry flat rather than tumble dry or leave them near direct heat sources such as radiators or drying machines.
There are many compression gloves with different features to fit everyone’s needs.
For example, some include a non-slip feature inside to deliver constant compression.
Meanwhile, others have textured surfaces to offer you a better grip.
Moreover, some arthritis gloves have vibration technology for blood circulation and muscle stimulation; they can be used for conditions like fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s.
But they cost more than regular ones, and they’re battery-dependent.
Finally, there are compression gloves with incorporated copper filaments in their fabric to prevent the gloves from developing any smell after wearing them for a long time (as copper has anti-microbial properties).
They are also intended to keep the body warm.
However, the copper doesn’t make them superior to other compression gloves.
Now let’s see how to use the pair of compression gloves properly for the best results.
When and when not to wear compression gloves?
You must wear compression gloves at the proper time.
In other words, don’t wear compression gloves for 24 hours because this could be bad for your skin and your hand might feel stressed all the time.
At first, you should only wear them for a short period until you get used to them and see if there are any side effects you may feel.
However, the best time is to wear them overnight and stick to the 8-hour rule.
Compression gloves are designed to be worn for 8 hours, the length of your sleep.
That’s why they are best worn overnight, so when you wake up, you can feel their effect and get the most benefit from them.
They can also be worn during the day, but ensure they don’t affect your daily routine and habits.
You will not feel a difference if you wear them for an hour or so.
When not to wear compression gloves?
Don’t wear compression gloves while driving because they might hinder your grip.
Also, don’t wear them if you have carpal tunnel syndrome because, as we have seen, it could worsen things.
Moreover, if you experience the following, stop using them and ask for professional help.
- The pain continues or increases.
- Numbness in your fingers or hands.
- Skin irritation, itching, redness, or swelling
- Disturbed sleep
The bottom line is:
That your arthritis gloves should be worn consistently for 8 hours to get the most benefit, that’s why it’s best to wear them while you’re sleeping.
If your pain worsens, stop using them and ask your doctor for advice.
By the end of our article, we hope you have a comprehensive guide to knowing all about compression gloves.
If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to send them; we’re more than happy to get back to you as soon as possible.