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Hand Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis

7 hand-stretching exercises to ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Hand Exercises for RA to Avoid

Certain exercises may also do more harm than good, adds Francoise Cherry, a certified hand therapist at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York. “Most patients say, ‘I have been squeezing a ball,’” she says. “But don't do this because it puts more stress in the joints.”

Hand Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Pain Is Not OK

Matteson says there is one rule about hand exercises and RA you should always follow: Hand exercises for rheumatoid arthritis should not hurt.

“If you experience pain, stop the hand exercises," he says. "Once the pain has subsided, you can repeat the exercises with reduced intensity and speed."

If the pain comes back or you can’t perform the hand exercises at reduced intensity, there may be something else going on, like a joint dislocation. If this occurs, “talk to your doctor,” he says.

Hand Exercises for RA: Protect Your Joints

Alexandra MacKenzie, an occupational therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, stresses that joint protection is key. “We focus on protecting the joints, making sure inflammation is down and teaching people how to modify their activities,” she says.

Lifestyle changes can also help protect hand and wrist joints and preserve their function.

For example, “using heat first thing in the morning, which is when joints are the stiffest because they were not moving all night, can be helpful,” she says. This can take the form of a heating pad or just soaking your hands in warm water in the shower.

Jar openers and other adaptive equipment may also help, she says.

Cherry says hand and wrist splints are also important for people with RA. Splints help support and align joints. “The pattern of hand deformity is uniform in rheumatoid arthritis, and we have splints that target this deformity,” she says.

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Reviewed on April 08, 2009

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