DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I have DeQuervain Syndrome and arthritis, which cause excruciating pain in my hands and wrists. I sometimes wear medically prescribed braces for the condition. Other times, I don’t need to wear braces. Certain motions, including gripping, twisting, and shaking hands cause huge pain flare-ups and weakness. I also have an immune condition that necessitates that I avoid germs when possible.
I have been in professional and personal situations where it is customary to shake hands. Even when I’m wearing my braces (on both hands), people still feel the need to try and shake my hand. How do I politely decline shaking hands without explaining my medical condition or making excuses? How else can I handle this situation? I’m tired of shaking hands just to be PC and suffering the consequences. --- LOSING MY GRIP
DEAR LOSING MY GRIP: I’ve known others in your situation, and it is not an easy one to deal with.
The Arthritis Foundation has some interesting options for those suffering with hand and wrist disabilities. At least two seemed pretty viable tactics I can see working in many situations. The first is to initiate the handshake yourself by taking the other person’s right hand in both of yours and giving a light squeeze. The other suggestion I like is to make sure your hands are “full” when it’s introduction or greeting time by holding objects that you can easily manage, even on particularly painful days. I’d further refine this second technique by suggesting you use your prop tissue to apply to your “runny” nose.
My other recommendation is, if you haven’t already, have a candid talk with your doctors and/or physical therapists. They often have tips they’ve picked up from other patients, which have the added benefit of getting the stamp of approval from medical professionals.