Diabetic Chiropathy?

Hi. I am 64 years old, and have been a well controlled diabetic for 56 years. I have few complications, except for what my doctor has termed “Diabetic Chiropathy”. My fingers are swollen and painful. It is very difficult to bend my fingers. No one seems to know anything about this, or how to treat it. I’ve been to hand specialist, rheumatoid arthritis specialist, endocrinologist and general internist. Has anyone else had experience with this ailment, and what have you done to relieve the pain and discomfort ? Thank you

@neuj0903 hi Nancy,

I only have frozen shoulders and trigger fingers, for which I have found there is absolutely nothing I can do except make it worse, I am replying to bump this question back to the top so you have a better chance to get an answer. sorry I couldn’t be helpful.

Thanks. I also have trigger fingers but the real issue is the swelling and stiffness.

I too have stiffness and swelling in my left hand mostly. I assumed I was just getting arthritis since I have it in my index finger. Flexing my fingers off and on for a minute or so seems to help for a while, so it might not be the same thing. I’ll be interested in seeing the responses to this. Hope you find the answers you are looking for.

I believe the term is “diabetic cheiroarthropathy.” Before the development of the HbA1c test, some physicians would use a simple “palm on the table” test (my words) to assess success in diabetes management. The person with diabetes was asked to place their hand, palm down, on a table. They were then asked to flatten their hand on the table “as flat as they could” without causing discomfort. The amount of light that could be seen under their fingers was taken as a gross indication of their success managing their diabetes. “Cheiroarthropathy” was said to be the cause of difficulty flattening one’s fingers on the tabletop, and the condition was said to be indicative of difficulties with management.

I have seen people “reverse” some of the “stiffness” and loss of flexibility that occurs with diabetes. I don’t know if it is actually due to cheiroarthropathy or not. Some years ago my left shoulder “froze up,” making it difficult for me to put on my sport coat. I worked with a physical therapist (skilled in treating shoulder injuries) to free my shoulder; he instituted a series of rather “brutal” stretches that started to free my shoulder (it was no fun). He also had me continue to do specific stretches three times a day. After six weeks of rather aggressive therapy my shoulder was “more flexible than ever.” I continue to perform those stretches.

An occupational therapist helped me with hand pain/reduced flexibility some years ago, too. The pain and loss of flexibility would really become a problem when I performed heavy lifting tasks for several days in a row (e.g., moving heavy boxes/objects). Again, she taught me a series of stretches that I continue to perform. My hands work pretty well, but I can’t easily hold small objects in my clinched fist. I need to find stretches to improve that specific area of flexibility.

My point is this, is cheiroarthropathy and “permanent” loss of flexibility inevitable? I don’t know. I’m satisfied that the stretches I perform has limited whatever it is that has challenged my flexibility.

Good luck to all!


Nancy question, when this condition hurts w hat is your blood sugar, I am wondering if this is a different type of neuropathy. I have RA and that is how my fingers act. along with other things. I was just recently diagnosed with Seronegative Ra, means that all the blood tests etc come back negative but the symptomology proves the point. I have been dealing with this problem since the 80’s with no actual diagnosis until recently… Not all doctors recognize Seronegative RA, my Rheumatologist did other doctors didn’t have a clue. My x-rays showed the problem and my blood and specific RA tests did not, I have been tested off and on for years with no diagnosis until this one It is a new name for an old problem- Treatment-because of my liver prob, I am taking Plaquinill? used to treat malaria. check the web for Seronegative Ra, it really is a common problem, Dr’s are just now realizing just because the tests don’t prove it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist… Hope this helps, ps: it may be a another autoimmune disease that has no name. Keep me posted and if I can help let me know. Bye Jan

Thank you Bill. I had never heard that about the palm test. Very interesting! My left hand is fine, only the right has issues (and yes I am righthanded). I have had a boat load of physical therapy on my hands. Unfortunately it only works for a little while and then they’re right back where they were before. I have to believe that there is some medication that will help this. Very painful.

I have severe pain in my left (dominant) hand as well as trigger finger in that hand. My orthopedist diagnosed it as neuropathy, which I already have in my feet. He gives me low dose cortisone shots in my left hand that helps immensely. This does cause my blood glucose to rise a bit, so stringent blood glucose monitoring is essential.

Additional info, And this is going against all that you have been told. So here goes. I very seldom get neuropathy because I maintain a higher blood sugar. I have said this before and several MDs and Neurologist agree. The brain only uses sugar as a fuel and if it doesn’t have enough fuel the brain will steal it from your P-nerves. the brain doesn’t care about the limbs only the main part of the body. Your nerves are covered in glucose sort of like rubber gloves, and it your brain needs fuel that is where it goes to get it… So in order for me to avoid this pain I run a higher blood sugar. My endo has all of her older diabetics run a higher Bs. When my BS gets down to about 117 that’s when the pain hits so I stay above 140… Dominate side has more blood vessels, and nerves that is why it is hit first for the fuel. Cortisone is not good for Diabetics. Try testing your BS when this pain hits and see if it is always in the same range, if it is, drink a little Apple juice of Grape juice about 1/2 glass; and see if that relieves the pain. As I said this goes against what you have been taught, but more Doctors are agreeing with this approach because keep it works. Give it a try , hope it helps. PS: This is why Vets (animal docs) keep animals at a higher BS… It works for me and I have been a type 1 for 64 years. Keep me posted. If I let the pain in then my right hand cramps, goes numb sort of then the pain hits hard. I stop it at the first sign… Hope this helps, bye jan

Thank you Jan. I live alone, so keeping my BS a little on the high side is probably wise anyway. 54 years for me. Best of luck and thanks again for the great suggestion.