Hand Arthritis: Exercises

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Your Care Instructions

Here are some examples of exercises for hand arthritis. Start each exercise slowly. Ease off the exercise if you start to have pain.

Your doctor or your physiotherapist or occupational therapist will tell you when you can start these exercises and which ones will work best for you.

How to do the exercises

Tendon glides

Picture of the tendon glide exercise
slide 1 of 6
slide 1 of 6, Tendon glides,

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

  1. With your affected hand, point your fingers and thumb straight 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.
  6. Repeat the series of motions 8 to 12 times.
  7. Switch hands and repeat steps 1 through 6, even if only one hand is sore.

Intrinsic flexion

Picture of the intrinsic flexion exercise
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slide 2 of 6, Intrinsic flexion,
  1. Rest your affected hand on a table and bend the large joints where your fingers connect to your hand. Keep your thumb and the other joints in your fingers straight.
  2. Slowly straighten your fingers. Your wrist should be relaxed, following the line of your fingers and thumb.
  3. Move back to your starting position, with your hand bent.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  5. Switch hands and repeat steps 1 through 4, even if only one hand is sore.

Finger extension

Picture of the ffinger extension exercise
slide 3 of 6
slide 3 of 6, Finger extension,
  1. Place your affected hand flat on a table.
  2. Lift and then lower one finger at a time off the table.
  3. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  4. Switch hands and repeat steps 1 through 3, even if only one hand is sore.

MP extension

Picture of the MP extension exercise
slide 4 of 6
slide 4 of 6, MP extension,
  1. Place your good hand on a table, palm up. Put your affected hand on top of your good hand with your fingers wrapped around the thumb of your good hand like you are making a fist.
  2. Slowly uncurl the joints of your affected hand where your fingers connect to your hand so that only the top two joints of your fingers are bent. Your fingers will look like a hook.
  3. Move back to your starting position, with your fingers wrapped around your good thumb.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  5. Switch hands and repeat steps 1 through 4, even if only one hand is sore.

PIP extension (with MP extension)

Picture of PIP extension (with MP extension)
slide 5 of 6
slide 5 of 6, PIP extension (with MP extension),
  1. Place your good hand on a table, palm up. Put your affected hand on top of your good hand, palm up.
  2. Use the thumb and fingers of your good hand to grasp below the middle joint of one finger of your affected hand.
  3. Straighten the last two joints of that finger.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 with each finger.
  6. Switch hands and repeat steps 1 through 5, even if only one hand is sore.

DIP flexion

Picture of the DIP flexion exercise
slide 6 of 6
slide 6 of 6, DIP flexion,
  1. With your good hand, grasp one finger of your affected hand. Your thumb will be on the top side of your finger just below the joint that is closest to your fingernail.
  2. Slowly bend your affected finger only at the joint closest to your fingernail.
  3. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 with each finger.
  5. Switch hands and repeat steps 1 through 4, even if only one hand is sore.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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