5 easy hand exercises for people with arthritis

Oct 09, 2020
Certain hand exercises can help to reduce pain, stiffness and swelling. Source: Getty.

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and stiffness in and around the joints. In fact, there are over 100 types of arthritis that affect the hand and wrist joints, with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and gout being the main offenders, exercise physiotherapist Kusal Goonewardena tells Starts at 60.

“[This can] result in decreased mobility, reduced strength and a lack of function — especially grip strength and inability to use fingers effectively,” he explains.

The good news is exercise can help — certain hand exercises can help to reduce pain, stiffness and swelling, and improve joint flexibility. So what are some good exercises that can help ease the pain? Below, with the help of Kusal, we’ve listed five easy hand exercises that you can do from the comfort of your own home. Just be sure to check with your doctor or physiotherapist before starting a new routine.

Exercise 1: Prayer stretch

Place your palms together in a prayer position. Then keep your palms pressing together as you move your hands above your head. Hold for 30 seconds before moving your hands down. Kusal says to repeat this step two more times.

Prayer stretch. Source: Supplied.

Exercise 2: Reverse prayer stretch

Press the back of your palms together in front of your body at about hip level. Lift your hands up slightly and hold for 30 seconds before relaxing. Kusal says to repeat this step two more times.

Reverse prayer stretch. Source: Supplied.

Exercise 3: Wrist stretch

Hold your arm straight out in front of you, with your palm facing down. Then, with your other hand gently grasp the front of your palm, and hold for 30 seconds. Then place the same hand under your palm and press up. Hold again for 30 seconds. Kusal says to repeat this step two more times, before switching hands.

Wrist stretch. Source: Supplied.

Exercise 4: Grip stretch

Got a stress ball lying around at home? Well, if you do, Kusal recommends squeezing it 30 times. This is great for stretching fingers and preventing arthritis pain. Some people even use a stress ball to well, reduce stress!

Exercise 5: Shoulder stretches

While it may not be a hand exercise, Kusal says shoulder stretches are just as important as they’re the foundation for our hands and fingers. “Making sure these areas work properly [is] very important!” he says.

We’d recommend starting off with something simple like a bus driver stretch. Hold your arms out in front of you and imagine you’re turning the steering wheel of a bus. You can add lightweight dumbbells if you like or use no weight.

So how often should you be doing these?

Kusal reckons the above exercises can be done daily, even twice a day if you’re feeling up to it. However, he advises against pushing yourself if you’re having a bad day for pain, saying “we have to listen to our bodies”. If you live with arthritis then you’d know that pain can be constant or it can come and go.

“For example, if you usually do 30 squeezes but when it’s painful you can only do 12, then only do 12 [and] slowly build up,” he says. “Patience is the key.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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