8 Exercises for Hand Arthritis

What to know first

Exercises for hand arthritis may help improve your range of motion or strengthen your muscles. To reduce pain before you start, try soaking your hands in warm water. You may want to try some of the exercises with your hands submerged in warm water or while you’re in a heated pool. The buoyancy of the water lessens stress on the joints. For each of these exercises, it’s best to start with a few slow repetitions once a day as pain permits and gradually work up to 10. Repeat the exercise on your right and left hand if both are affected.

finger joint blocking

1. Finger joint blocking

A. Lay your hand palm side up on a table. With your opposite hand, grasp and hold the affected finger at the middle section just below the joint closest to your fingertip. Bend and straighten the finger at this joint only while holding the rest of the finger straight. Repeat for each finger.

B. Now hold the finger you’re exercising just below the middle joint. Bend and straighten the finger at the middle joint only, while holding the rest of the finger straight. Repeat for each finger.

wrist turn

2. Wrist turn

With your arm outstretched on a table, turn your palm toward the ceiling, then turn it down to face the floor.

finger curl

3. Finger curls

Keeping your wrist straight, extend and spread your fingers. Then make a loose fist, keeping your thumb on the outside of your fingers.

wrist bend

4. Wrist bend

With your arm outstretched, bend your wrist backward, then forward.

fingertip touch

5. Fingertip touch

Starting with an open hand, touch your thumb to the pad just below your pinkie finger. Release and then touch your thumb to the tip of your pointer finger, ring finger, index finger, and pinkie finger, in sequence.

thumb stretch

6. Thumb stretch

Start with your hand outstretched. Bend your thumb toward the base of your pinkie finger. Return to original position.

hand grips paper crumpled into ball

7. Muscle strengthener

Hold a piece of paper by the corner, and using only one hand, crumple it into a ball as fast as you can.

hand presses down other hand on table

8. Finger stretch

Place your hand palm down on a table. Place your other hand on top of that hand, and lift up with the fingers of the hand on the bottom. You can lift the fingers all at once or one at a time.

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HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into Healthcentral.com in 2018.