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Hand Exercises for Osteoarthritis


Below are exercises that you can do to help stretch and strengthen the muscles in your hands and fingers and reduce pain and stiffness. Before you try any of these exercises, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. He or she can help design an exercise plan that is best for you.

If you feel pain when you do these exercises, stop. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if there are other exercises that you can do to keep your muscles flexible and strong.

Tendon glides for hands

Picture of hand exercises for osteoarthritis

This exercise is a gentle way to move the joints and tendons in your hands. Do these movements until you feel a mild stretch. Never push to a strong stretch.

In this exercise, the steps follow one another to a make a continuous movement.

  1. Hold your hand straight with your fingers and thumb pointing up. Your wrist should be relaxed, following the line of your fingers and thumb.
  2. Curl your fingers so that the top two joints in them are bent, and your fingers wrap down. Your fingertips should touch or be near the base of your fingers. Your fingers will look like a hook.
  3. Make a fist by bending your knuckles. Your thumb can gently rest against your index (pointing) finger.
  4. Unwind your fingers slightly so that your fingertips can touch the base of your palm. Your thumb can rest against your index finger.
  5. Move back to your starting position, with your fingers and thumb pointing up.

Repeat the series of motions 10 times with each hand.

Alternating finger touch for hands

Picture of hand exercises for osteoarthritis

This exercise is a gentle way to move the joints and tendons in your hands. Do these movements until you feel a mild stretch. Never push to a strong stretch.

  1. Hold your hand with your fingers and thumb spread out, facing upward. Your wrist should be lined up with your fingers and thumb.
  2. Holding your hand in its spread-out position, take your first finger and thumb, and curl them until their tips touch. This will look like an "okay" sign, but try to keep your other fingers straight and pointing upward as much as you can.
  3. Repeat the exercise with your second finger and thumb. Again, your fingers that aren't being used should point upward.
  4. Repeat with your third and fourth fingers.

Do this exercise 10 times with each hand. Each exercise includes all fingers.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid A. Fleckenstein, MPT - Physical Therapy
Last RevisedApril 8, 2011

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