When you have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), or regular Arthritis, it is really good to have something that you can do for your hands/fingers/wrists (if those are the joints being affected).
Exercise was the farthest thing from my mind when I had my initial symptoms from my RA because the joints simply did not want to move, nor did I want them to. They hurt so very bad.
Unfortunately, it is what caused me to lose muscle tone and strength, but it can be a vicious circle. If I moved them they really hurt making my life absolutely miserable. Then I couldn’t wring out my dish cloth, I couldn’t open jar lids, I had trouble mixing ingredients in a bowl with a spoon, I couldn’t hold a cup in my hand without the aid of the other hand, it made it almost impossible to get dressed, pull my pants down or up when going to the washroom, etc., etc. Not a good thing.
Now I’ve come across some recommended exercises for those of us suffering with RA or Arthritis in hand joints, Carpal Tunnel and Trigger Finger, that could possibly help regain some of that much needed strength and muscle tone.
I’ve come across some YouTube videos that you can watch to help you with doing some exercises that can help you to regain strength and flexibility. You can click on this link to find them on-line – YouTube Hand Exercise Videos for Arthritis.
My recommendation would be to start slow, especially if you are having serious issues moving your hands and fingers. I know when I have a “flare” there is no way on earth I can do anything, but once the flare subsides, it’s a good idea to get right back at it, but make sure to take it slow, because you don’t want to hurt yourself, plus you don’t want another “flare”.
Some things you can do to help with strengthening your hands/fingers/
wrists is to use small weights. Begin with one pound weights (pictured), or use a soup can to start with. Simply lifting the weights slowly in the beginning, then increase the weights as you feel more comfortable. This helps build up strength in the arms as well.
I also have a tiny football that fits nicely in my hand. I use it when watching television and just squeeze it to help with increasing strength. Again, it’s advisable to avoid these things when you are experiencing a “flare” as it could make the flare worse. Any small hand-sized squeeze toy will do or hand exercisers – here’s a video on how to use these hand exercisers (pictured) with arthritis.
Playing a musical instrument such as a piano or organ can also help with arthritic fingers/hands/wrists. There are lots of videos on YouTube to help with keyboard exercises to help strengthen your fingers and increase your coordination and stamina for playing a keyboard instrument. Again, start slowly, do these exercises daily (if possible), and you will feel a difference in your hands, fingers, and wrists. Here’s a link to some piano exercises.
Another way to help get rid of stiffness in your arthritic joints is to crochet, knit,
or some other hand craft that uses all the fingers and joints. The more they move, the better it will be for those joints. Here are some exercises to do before you pick up your needles so you don’t hurt yourself.
Now, if you are experiencing a “flare” – something to consider first thing in the morning, when you first get up, fill your sink with the warmest water you can stand and soak your fingers, hands, and wrists while moving them around to loosen the joints for 5-10 minutes, or until the water cools down too much. This will help get the joints moving. If you think it will help, put some Epsom salts in that water – it will help detoxify those joints to get rid of toxin buildup that helps contribute to the pain. This can be done any time of day, but is really good first thing in the morning when the joints are usually stiff and really achy due to the lack of movement overnight.
If you are fortunate enough to have a wax bath for your hands/feet, you could use this first thing in the morning instead of the hot water mentioned above. The wax bath that I have comes with gloves to wear to keep the warmth in while the wax cools down on your hands. I found this extremely helpful when I first had my RA symptoms. Here’s a video using a paraffin wax bath.
When you are experiencing a “flare”, one piece of equipment I had to help with pain is my TENS machine. It came in handy a lot, and still does sometimes for alleviating muscle and joint pain.
I have gloves that are made specially for hand pain, where the connectors attach to the glove instead of to a pad. The gloves need to be moist in order for them to work properly, so I keep a spray bottle with water to spritz the gloves just before putting them on and turning on the machine. It works wonders. You can also just use the pads for the TENS machine connectors and attach them to your wrists, hands, or fingers to get the relief you need.
Both the wax bath and TENS machines do not require you to do anything with your hands except rest throughout the procedure, but your joints will definitely feel better after using them so that you can do some exercises a little later.
Using the Total Gym has helped me with increasing strength in my hands as well as the rest of my body. So if you have exercise equipment around that you think could be helpful, please use it.
Swimming is another exercise that helps with strengthening the entire body. It is gentle and can be done most of the year if you have access to an indoor pool. If not, use it in the warm months if at all possible. I found a YouTube video specific to water exercises for arthritis in the hands.
Making recipes that require you to use your hands to mix the ingredients can be good exercise as well. Things like meatloaf, meatballs, kale salad (where you have to “massage” the kale for about 10 minutes), with some of my cookie recipes I use my hands to mix the dough as it’s easier than using a spoon. Any movement at all helps.
Or just do some simple exercises – shown here – to help with stiffness and arthritis pain in your hands/fingers/wrists.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Wikipedia explains that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a medical condition due to compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist at the carpal tunnel. The main symptoms are pain, numbness, and tingling, in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring fingers.
Who is at risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – women are three times more likely to develop this condition than men and can be affected any time between the ages of 30 and 60 years of age and is linked with high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders like RA, fractures or serious injury, Thyroid dysfunction and pregnancy or menopause. It is mainly caused by excess pressure on the median nerve, but can also be attributed to inflammatory conditions that cause swelling in the wrist. I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in September of 2017.
For Carpal Tunnel, the following video shows some exercises that can be helpful for this ailment in your hands. Carpal Tunnel can be very painful and sometimes can lead to surgery, but if you catch it early enough, you may be able to alleviate your problem with some simple exercises and/or nutrition. For natural treatments, Dr. Axe makes suggestions in this video that will help you avoid the knife (if you try his suggestion of essential oils make sure to use a carrier oil before applying as they are very potent on their own and can cause irritation if applied directly to the skin)!
Another condition many people, including myself, suffer from is “trigger finger”. That is where the finger(s) when bent do not want to extend again, but lock. It causes pain when trying to unlock the finger from the closed position. But this is another condition that can be helped using exercise to alleviate some of the issues. I have linked to the exercises recommended to use here for you to check out.
Trigger finger happens when the tendon that helps you bend the finger gets caught inside the sheath, that it slides in, due to inflammation. The catch is what is called the “trigger”. This particular finger issue can be helped along with exercise as indicated above, but also can be an indication of a lack of vitamin B6 in the diet. I have been taking P5P (pyridoxal-5- phosphate) a form of B6 that has proven to be instrumental in helping get rid of trigger finger as well as Carpal Tunnel.
So if you suffer from any form of arthritis, carpal tunnel or trigger finger, exercise is some of the best medicine you can apply to help get those joints moving, even as tough as it can be. Make sure to check with your health care team first before attempting any exercise or taking any supplements related to issues with your body no matter where the pain is located.
Have a wonderful day and week ahead.