8 Essential Hand and Finger Exercises for Arthritis Pain Relief
If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, you're not alone. This condition ranks as the leading cause of disability in the United States, with an estimated 50 million adults and 300,000 youngsters suffering from some form of the disease.
But as you've probably discovered when you mention that you have arthritis to family, friends and co-workers, the condition is often misunderstood, points out the Arthritis Foundation.
What you and others with the more than 100 different types of arthritis have in common, however, is some type of joint pain. And that means having problems with what sometimes seem like frustratingly simple actions, from getting dressed to brushing your teeth to opening a jar.
When it comes to how you can cope with swelling, pain and decreased range of motion in your fingers and hands, some specific exercises have been shown to help.
Hand and Finger Exercises For Arthritis Overview
Can exercise help you to keep up your flexibility and strength despite that darned arthritis? WebMD reports that regularly performing certain exercises can boost your range of motion, strengthen your hands and fingers, and even provide relief from pain.
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Don't stress about the possibility that exercise might cause more pain rather than relieve your aches, however. The exercises described here are intended to be done only until you feel a sense of tightness rather than pain. Always talk with your doctor or other health provider before performing any exercise.
Hand and Finger Exercise Tip
If your fingers and hand feel stiff or painful, take time to warm them before you start the exercises. Just 5 to 10 minutes to warm your joints can help you to stretch and move them.
There are three options for warming up your fingers and hands prior to exercise:
- Warm your finger and hand joints with a heating pad for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Soak your hands in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Rub oil on your hands. Then pull on a pair of rubber gloves and soak them in warm water for a few minutes to deepen the warmth.
Hand and Finger Exercise 1: Simple Stretches
Throughout this exercise, use gentle movements. First, place your thumb across your fingers, and then form a fist. Next, hold that fist 30 to 60 seconds.
Release the position of your hand, going from the fist hold opening your fingers wide.
Repeat the simple hand and finger stretch with each hand for a minimum of four repetitions.
Hand and Finger Exercise 2: Finger Stretches
In this exercise, you will learn how to increase the range of motion in your hands while easing pain. You'll need a flat surface, such as a table.
Put your hand with the palm facing down on the flat surface. Moving slowly, straighten out your fingers flat, but do not force your joints to extend.
Hold that position 30 to 60 seconds before releasing it. Repeat the finger stretches for a minimum of four times per hand.
Hand and Finger Exercise 3: Claw Stretches
If you've having problems with a task such as opening a pickle jar or reaching up to a shelf and grabbing an item, this stretch may help. It's designed specifically to increase the range of motion in your fingers.
With your palm facing you, hold your hand out in front. Bend your fingertips forward so that you are touching (or trying to touch) the base of your finger joints.
The shape should resemble a claw. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds before you let go to relax. Repeat a minimum of four times for each hand.
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Hand and Finger Exercise 4: Grip Strengthening
For this next exercise, you'll focus on getting a stronger grip. It's designed to help with tasks such as opening a door knob or hold objects firmly. You'll need a small, soft ball to get started. Note: Skip this exercise is you have a damaged thumb joint.
Holding onto the soft ball in the palm of your hand, squeeze tightly for a few seconds. Release and relax. Repeat the squeezing motion 10 to 15 times on each hand.
This particular exercise should not be done every day. Instead, rest your hands for a minimum of 48 hours in between grip-strengthening sessions. Aim for an average of two to three times a week for this exercise assignment.
Hand and Finger Exercise 5: Finger Lifts
If you view tasks such as opening jars with dread, the finger lift exercise just might help. It's designed to boost your fingers' flexibility and range of motion. All you'll need is a flat surface, such as a table.
With your palm facing down, put your flat hand on the table or other surface. Moving gently, lift just one finger at a time off the table, then lower it.
An alternative exercise: Lift all your fingers and thumbs at the same time, then lower them back to the table.
Repeat the movement 8 to 12 times per hand.
Hand and Finger Exercise 6: Thumb Touches
Sometimes the simplest actions, such as writing with a pen or eating with a fork, can feel like the most annoying if arthritis affects your thumbs. This exercise focuses on such challenges by increasing the range of motion in your thumbs.
Hold your wrist straight, and put your hand out in front of you. Using a gentle movement, touch your thumb to each fingertip. Each time that you perform that action, your goal is to form the shape of the letter "O."
Repeat the exercise a minimum of four times on each hand, holding each thumb stretch for 30 seconds to 60 seconds.
Hand and Finger Exercise 7: Pinch Strengthening
Does turning the key in your front door or getting fuel at the gas pump sometimes feel like an exercise in frustration because your fingers and thumbs lack strength? This exercise focuses on building up the strength in your thumbs and fingers. You'll need putty or a soft, foam ball. Note: If your thumb joint is damaged in any way, skip this exercise.
Pinch the putty or foam ball between your thumb and the tips of your fingers. Hold the pinch position for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each hand.
The pinch strengthening exercise should be done two to three times each week, taking a break of at least 48 hours between exercise sessions.
Hand and Finger Exercise 8: Fun With Clay Or Play With Putty
Looking for something different? Take a creative tip from the kids, and have some fun playing with clay or puttering with putty. These inexpensive items provide a way to strengthen your hands while boosting the range of motion in your fingers.
Make long pipe shapes with your palms, or squash the clay or putty into a ball, then pinch it into shapes ranging from kittens to vampires to flowers.