We use our hands every day, from texting to cooking to giving high fives. So how do we keep our palms and digits in good working shape?
Many times, our hands can become tired, sore and painful. If you have arthritis, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome or other uncomfortable hand ailments, you might experience these symptoms more regularly.
Think of the hand as a plant, while the median nerve, which supplies power and feeling to the hand, is similar to a garden hose. If the garden hose is compressed, then the plant will not receive what it needs to function. This is when patients have symptoms.
There are many exercises that can help strengthen your hands and fingers, increase your range of motion and provide you temporary, or even longer-term pain relief.
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Here are five hand and finger exercises that can help you increase flexibility, dexterity and strength.
1. Grab a squeeze ball
Grab a soft ball and hold it in your palm, squeezing it as hard as you can without causing your hands pain. Hold this position for three to five seconds, and then release. Work up to repeating this exercise 10 to 12 times for each of your hands. Continue this exercise two to three times weekly, but rest approximately two days before your next session. This exercise will provide the ability to hold things without dropping them, as well as help you open door knobs throughout your day.
“Grabbing a squeeze ball may also exacerbate pain from arthritis,” says Rachel Lefebvre, MD, assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “It can be a good idea to check with your physician before using tools like a squeeze ball or hand grip strengthener.”
2. Put up your dukes and make a fist
With each hand, independently make a gentle fist, then wrap your thumb across your fingers. Hold this position for up to one minute, then release and spread open all of your fingers as wide as you can. Repeat this exercise three to fives times with each hand. This can help you increase your range of motion.
3. Get relief when you exercise
Warming up your hands before you exercise can help alleviate discomfort, which will subsequently have the potential to make your stretching and movement become easier. Treatments suggested include soaking them in warm water, wrapping them in a heated towel or using a heating pad for approximately five to 10 minutes. To gain an even deeper warming effect for your hands, you can rub some oil into your hands, put on a pair of rubber gloves and soak them in warm water, or use a heated towel or heating pad. This is a great method to help your hands feel better, especially if you regularly experience pain or stiffness in your hands and fingers.
4. Lift your fingers
Starting with your left hand, place it flat, palm down, on a table. Starting with your thumb, gently lift each finger at a time slowly off the table. Hold each of your fingers one to two seconds, and then lower them. Repeat with your right hand and then repeat eight to 10 times for each hand. This finger-lift exercise can help increase the range of motion of your hands, as well as finger flexibility.
5. Stretch your wrists
Many people, particularly women, have wrist pain during exercise, especially yoga and lifting heavy objects. Sometimes, they even feel this when lifting their children. The wrist-extending stretch can help support these tasks and decrease uncomfortableness. To complete this exercise, extend your right arm in front of you with your palm facing toward the floor. Bend your wrist, pointing the tips of your fingers toward the floor. With your left hand, gently bend your wrist toward you until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm (that means behind your wrist). Hold this position for at least 15 to 30 seconds, switch to your left arm and then repeat two to four times.
“If you’re having numbness or tingling in your hand, you should be evaluated by a physician,” says Dr. Lefebvre, who is also a hand surgeon at the USC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC. “If you have weakness in your hands that’s not improving with strengthening exercises or that’s concerning to you, you should be evaluated by a hand specialist.”
These helpful hand exercises are great ways to help you keep up your dexterity and flexibility. If you are doing these hand exercises and they are not decreasing the amount of discomfort you are feeling, we recommend you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for additional assistance in resolving your concerns.
By Leonard Kim
If you’re in the Southern California area and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800)USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment to schedule an appointment.