Home Hand Therapy Tips for Osteoarthritis

Five hand exercises that will keep you fit right down to your fingertips.

Your hands open new possibilities every day, from the door handle you pull open to step into a new space to the jar you open to sample a new treat. Osteoarthritis can make these physical activities more difficult, but you don’t have to let this disease close doors in your life.

Exercise to keep osteoarthritis at bay.

Along with following sensible guidelines for eating right and maintaining a healthy weight, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to keep the effects of osteoarthritis at bay. You may have to modify your activities, but that doesn’t mean you should give them up. Exercise helps by strengthening the muscles that surround the joints. Stronger muscles protect your joints by absorbing extra force. Exercises designed to move your joints will also keep them fluid and limber.

Use these tips to strengthen hand joints.

Even if osteoarthritis is not a problem for you, these hand exercises will help maintain your flexibility and strengthen the protective muscles around your hand joints. And if you have osteoarthritis, these exercises, done regularly, may reduce pain in your hands.

If your hands and fingers feel painful and stiff, try warming them up before you start. Use a heating pad or soak them in warm water for five to ten minutes. If you need an extra dose of heat, oil your hands and put on rubber gloves before you soak your hands in a bowl of warm water.

Make a fist.

Spread the fingers of your hand wide, and then make a gentle fist, wrapping your thumb across your fingers. Hold the fist for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat with both hands at least four times.

Flat finger stretch.

Open your hand, and place it palm-down on a flat surface. Gently straighten and stretch all of your fingers so that they are in full contact with the surface and fully extended. However, don’t force stiff joints if you can’t manage full contact with the surface. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, then release. Repeat with both hands at least four times.

Claw stretch.

Hold your hand in front of you, palm facing you. Bend all of your fingertips down to touch the base of each finger joint where the finger meets the palm. Your hand will look a little like a claw. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, then release. Repeat with both hands at least four times.

Finger lift.

Open your hand, and place it palm-down on a flat surface with all fingers straight and extended. Keeping your palm in contact with the surface, gently lift all of your fingers off the table, and then lower them. If you have trouble lifting all fingers at once, try lifting them one finger at a time. Repeat eight to ten times on both hands.

Grip strengthening squeeze.

Hold a soft ball in your hand. Squeeze it as hard as you can for five seconds, then release. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each hand, and rest your hands for two days between exercise sessions. Skip this exercise if your thumb joint is damaged.

These exercises are designed to help strengthen the muscles of your fingers and thumbs. Do them regularly to help protect your joints and keep your hands flexible. We want the hand functions that keep your life active and vital to be tasks you don’t even notice as you do them.

Related resources for you:

Visit our Hand & Wrist Care section where you’ll find more articles on hand health, information about common hand conditions and treatments, our hand & wrist video library, and more.

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