Our hands do a lot for us, but we often take them for granted. They are also very delicate and complicated tools, made up of 27 bones and many more tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Simple exercises can help you strengthen your fingers if they’re in good shape, or help ease the pain and discomfort that comes with conditions such as osteoarthritis or following an injury.
When you begin stretching, you don’t want to push it too far – stretch only until you can feel the area tightening, which may include a slight but not unpleasant ache, but not to the point of pain. Regular stretching can increase mobility and keep fingers flexible, which is important for preventing injury in people who play sports, especially those like basketball, boxing, or racquet sports.
One simple beginning stretch, which works especially well for arthritis pain, is to make a loose fist and hold it for about a minute, then spread your hand wide, feeling the stretch through the palm and fingers; repeat five to ten times on each side.
You can work on individual fingers by starting with your hand held up, spread open. Bend your thumb into your palm and hold for ten seconds, then release; repeat with each finger on both hands. Another individual exercise is to spread your hand, palm down, on a flat surface and raise one finger at a time, holding it in the air for ten to fifteen seconds before lowering it.
To build strength in your thumb and improve gripping motions, bend your thumb toward the tip of your pinkie and press as hard as you’re able without causing pain, for five to ten seconds. Move to the ring finger, then the middle and index fingers and repeat a few times on each hand. Another way to improve your ability to grasp objects is by squeezing a rubber ball as hard as you can for ten seconds; you can do a few repetitions a few times a week, but allow yourself a rest day or two in between. You can do the same with a pinching motion rather than a full fist.
One if the benefits of finger exercises is that they can be done anywhere, with little to no equipment. Use them to reduce inflammation, ease pain, and keep hands flexible and strong.