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While arthritis might be a common condition, with up to 47% of men being at risk, that doesn’t make it easy to live with. Arthritis of the hands can be debilitating, but it is possible to perform hand exercises to improve function and reduce your level of stiffness.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the condition but with many people expected to experience arthritis by the time they are 85 years old, it’s essential to understand the best ways to treat it.
Are Hand Exercises Good for Arthritis?
There are a number of treatment options for arthritis including various types of medication. However, there is a good amount of evidence to suggest exercise can help to improve your condition. Studies have shown significant changes where stiffness, pain, and function are concerned when performing regular hand exercises.
That said, there is little evidence to show that hand exercise might significantly improve range of motion, but since there is not a lot of data on this, things could become more clear as research continues.
For people that experience a lot of pain due to osteoarthritis of the hands, there is evidence to suggest that this could be reduced through the use of hand exercises. It is worth keeping in mind that, during studies, participants have had to go through some pain when initially doing the hand exercises, but as they continue with them, this pain has reduced.
Not only this but hand exercises have been shown to improve strength in the hands. Many people with arthritis find that they lack hand strength and are unable to grip as well as they once could. Improving the overall function of the hand through this type of exercise seems to be effective.
How Often Should You Do Arthritis Hand Exercises?
When you begin doing hand exercises for arthritis, you’ll need to make sure that you do them often enough for them to take effect. By the same token, you don’t want to go over the top and cause yourself more harm than good.
Most experts recommend performing each exercise 2-3 times a day. During each session, you’ll need to do five reps of each exercise. However, if you find that you are experiencing extreme pain then it is best to stop and seek medical advice.
In any case, we would always recommend talking to your physical therapist or doctor before starting hand exercises to make sure that this is the right option for you.
Some people find that performing the exercises while the hands are in warm water can make it easier. You can soak your hands in warm water for ten minutes before doing the exercises and this should help to reduce pain and stiffness. It’s also possible to rub oil into the hands to generate heat and make the exercises more tolerable.
11 Easy to Follow Arthritis Hand Exercises
Understanding that hand exercises may have the potential to improve the symptoms of arthritis is encouraging. However, if you are unsure where to start, you’ll need to learn some of the basic techniques. Fortunately, hand exercises for arthritis are easy to do and can be done from the comfort of home. Here are some of the most effective for you to try.
1. Fist Clench
- Start by placing the forearm onto a flat surface; a table is usually the best option.
- Bend the fingers at the top joint.
- Now move onto the middle joint and bend the fingers from here before following on to the final joint to create a fist.
- Hold the hand in this position for several seconds.
- Now start to release the fist, letting the joints open back up in reverse order.
2. Finger Stretching
- Begin by holding the fingers out straight.
- Bend the fingers at the middle joint to make a hook fist, then open them back out again.
- Now make a full fist and then return the fingers to the starting position.
3. Making an “O”
- Begin with the hand in a similar position as if you were reaching out to grab hold of a bottle.
- Place the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb, bending the joints slightly.
- Release this and then bring the tip of the middle finger to the thumb.
- Continue to repeat these steps with each finger.
Note that with the exercise, you will need to keep the thumb joints gently bent at all times.
4. Finger Lift
- Start by placing the hand onto a flat surface such as a table.
- Lift one finger off the table and then return it back down.
- Repeat this process for each of the fingers.
- Try to repeat this ten times if you don’t feel too much pain or stiffness.
5. Thumb Stretch
- Hold the hand out in front of you with the palm facing forward as if you were making a ‘stop’ sign.
- At the beginning of the exercise the thumb should be pointing outwards.
- Now move the thumb across the palm, so the tip makes contact with your hand.
- Move the thumb back to the starting position and repeat.
6. Finger Abduction & Adduction
- Place the hand out in front of you with the palm facing downwards.
- Now bring the thumb away from the hand, so it is pointing toward the ground.
- Move the thumb back to the starting position and repeat these steps several times.
7. Radial Finger Walking
- Place your hand onto a table or other flat surface.
- Keep the thumb pointing outwards, away from the hand.
- Start with your first finger and move this out toward the thumb.
- Next, move your middle finger toward the thumb and first finger.
- Continue this until all of your fingers have been moved toward the thumb.
- You can make several repetitions of this action on both hands.
8. Wrist Circles
- Rest your arm on a chair or table for support.
- Allow the fingers to curl slightly.
- Move the wrist in a circle clockwise without moving the arm.
- Repeat but this time, move the wrist in an anticlockwise direction.
9. Hand Lift
- Start by placing the arm onto a table or other flat surface.
- Keep the palm facing down.
- If you find this position uncomfortable, it can help to place a rolled-up towel under the wrist.
- Allow the fingers to remain in a relaxed and natural position.
- Lift the hand at the wrist until you feel a stretch.
- Move it back to the starting position and repeat as many times as necessary.
10. Hand Wave
- Place the hand on a flat surface, such as a table.
- As with the previous exercise, you may wish to place a rolled-up towel underneath for comfort and support.
- With the wrist overhanging the edge of the table, make a wave-like motion, up and down.
- Repeat this as many times as needed.
11. Grip Strength
- Use a table to rest the forearm for support.
- Hold a softball or a sponge in the hand you’re going to exercise.
- Curl the fingers to squeeze the ball. Begin with the knuckles at the hand, moving up the finger towards the top joints.
- Don’t squeeze any harder than feels comfortable.
- Hold the position for as long as you can or up to five seconds, and then release.