Simple movements may calm arthritis and other causes of pain in your hand. Here are some exercises for hand pain that might help you function better.
Like most people you probably don’t think about all the things your hands can do — pull, grip, push, throw, catch, crush, tear, write, and type — until it’s difficult to do them.
Hands are a complex system of bones, joints, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and tendons that work like a symphony just to pick up an object. As much as we use them, they can take a beating, and they can benefit from some TLC on a regular basis.
If your hand mobility is compromised, and you’re in pain, taking some simple steps might help.
Causes of hand pain
Many hand conditions affect mobility, and some are painful. The most common causes of hand pain are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Dupuytren’s disease
- Ganglion cysts
- Trigger finger
- Fractures and sprains
Some conditions are avoidable; some aren’t.
Repetitive movements can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, when the median nerve, which runs from your forearm into the palm of your hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at your wrist.
It helps to adjust your workplace equipment and how you hold your arms and type, but some people end up needing surgery.
Simply overdoing it can lead to tendonitis.
DeQuervain’s syndrome is a common form of tendonitis on the thumb side of your wrist and often results from excessive weeding, planting, and hammering. Resting is one way to avoid the problem.
Trigger finger involves pulleys and tendons in your hand that bend your fingers. Fingers work like any pulley system that picks up objects. In this case the pulleys in your fingers are like the eyelets on a fishing pole that guide your tendons. These pulleys hold your tendons close against the bone.
Although what causes trigger finger is somewhat of a mystery, the condition can occur after activities that strain your hand. It also occurs more often in women, most frequently if you’re between the ages of 40 and 60. It’s more common if you also have diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis, cysts, fractures, and sprains are less preventable, although using some common sense in situations that involve the use of your hands might prevent pain.
Exercises for hand pain
The good news is that hand and finger exercises can bring back some mobility and reduce pain. They are all simple, but you need to do them right to be effective.
Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon Levi Harrison, MD, suggests strengthening your hands by opening and closing your fists and spreading your fingers, then moving them in and out. You do the exercises in sets.
It may help to warm your hands in water or sand before doing the exercises. Harrison has YouTube videos with exercises for musicians, barbers, and other groups that use their hands all day.
The Arthritis Foundation also offers nine exercises for hand arthritis.
If exercise doesn’t help you, consider hand therapy with an occupational or physical therapist. Look for a hand therapist in your area at www.asht.org, the website of the American Society of Hand Therapists.
If you fracture or sprain your hand, your doctor will likely refer you to a physical therapist for rehabilitation to ensure proper healing.
December 08, 2022
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA and Janet O'Dell, RN