I regularly receive praise from my new patients for using a gentle handshake with my greeting. It's no great accomplishment really. It comes with years of experience and the training of clinical practice. It's an example of why I am called an arthritis expert, a rheumatologist.
After I give my patient a gentle handshake, and they in turn compliment me for my tenderness (actually restraint), I next let them in on a little known social trick that they always appreciate. I explain to them the following about Dr. Shiel's Patented Handshake for Arthritis Sufferers:
The "traditional" handshake is frequently approached as a macho maneuver rather than a mutual reception between the greeters. It is given by one person extending his or her hand in a vertical position toward the other person (read opponent), whereupon the other person responds similarly. (In a vertical hand position, the thumb points up.) Both persons' hands grasp in this vertical position and grip together. Typically, the grip is firm. It has been said that this vigorous style of handshake can sometimes instill confidence, establish rapport, and promote interpersonal attention.
The problem is that this vertical hand position allows for the maximal force of grip to be exerted. Furthermore, for someone who suffers from arthritis of the hands, this manner of grasping results merely in discomfort rather than a pleasant greeting. (This is especially true when the person with arthritis encounters politicians and long lost friends!) In a vertical grasp, the tender "knuckles" that are frequently inflamed and swollen by arthritis are smashed together. Moreover, the shaking maneuver causes a forceful twisting of these joints during the repetitive upward and downward motion of the handshake. All of this inevitably causes intense local pain in the hand.
How can you avoid the traditional handshake? Try Dr. Shiel's Shake!
[Here now exclusively for readers of MedicineNet.com!]
My handshake works like this. If you have arthritis of the hands, you should
never extend your hand vertically for a handshake. Instead, extend your hand
with the palm down, backside of the hand up (as the patient at the left in the photos below). This forces the person with whom
you are shaking to gently grasp your hand by turning their hand palm up into
This hand position is mechanically much less powerful so that the force
generated is substantially reduced. Furthermore, this avoids a crushing of the knuckles and finger joints that can be tender from arthritis. It is also a telltale sign to those you
greet that you do not want to hand wrestle. As a result, the greeting can be
made in a cordial fashion without any explanations needed - and without pain!
(You may thank MedicineNet.com and Dr. Shiel for releasing his secret! ...Since the original publication of this handshake in 2002, a patient of Dr. Shiel's came up with another method of avoiding unnecessary hand pain from a handshake. Simply holding any visible object in the right hand can also immediately avoid the handshake entirely!)
Medical Author: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Editor: Leslie J. Schoenfield, MD, PhD