Hand and Finger Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Stiffness and pain in your hands and fingers because of rheumatoid arthritis can keep you from doing simple everyday tasks.

But there are some quick and easy exercises that may help keep your fingers flexible and improve your range of motion, including:

Fingertip Touches

  1. Hold your arms up in a relaxed position, bent at the elbows with palms outward.
  2. Start with your index finger and bend it slowly downward to touch your thumb, and then open your hand back up.
  3. Do the same with your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky.
  4. Repeat as many times as needed with each hand.

Thumb Crosses

  1. Hold your arms up in a relaxed position, bent at the elbows with your palms out.
  2. Bend your thumb slowly until it touches your palm near the base of your little finger.
  3. Return your thumb to its original position.
  4. Repeat as many times as necessary with each hand.

Finger Curls

  1. With your palms facing away from you, roll your fingers slowly from the tips downward until you can touch your palms with your fingertips.
  2. Cross your thumbs in front, making a loose fist.
  3. Slowly open your hand back up.
  4. Repeat as many times as necessary with each hand.

Finger Lifts

  1. Put one hand flat on a table with your palm down and your fingers spread.
  2. While keeping your other digits as flat as possible, slowly lift your thumb as high as you can.
  3. Hold for a few seconds and then put it down.
  4. Repeat for each finger and then switch hands.
  5. Repeat as many times as you need with each hand.

Finger Walking

  1. Start with your hands on the surface of the table, palms facing down with fingers stretched out.
  2. Keeping your thumbs in place and in contact with the table, walk the fingers of each hand back under your palms.
  3. Then slowly return them to where they started.
  4. Repeat as many times as necessary with each hand.

Tug of War

  1. Put an envelope or card between your thumb and index finger.
  2. With your other hand, try to pull the envelope or card free for a count of three, but resist the pull with your thumb and index finger.
  3. Repeat using the thumb and each of the other fingers on your hand to resist the pull of your other hand.
  4. Repeat using the other hand to hold the envelope or card.

Continued

Making a ‘C’

  1. Start by holding your hand and fingers straight and close together.
  2. Gently curve your fingers into a “C” shape, as if you’re holding a can or bottle.
  3. Slowly return your hand to the starting position.
  4. Repeat as many times as necessary with each hand.

Finger Spreads

  1. Rest your hand on a flat surface, such as a tabletop, with your palm facing down.
  2. Move your thumb away from your hand.
  3. Beginning with your index finger, move it up and over to your thumb.
  4. Continue with each of your other fingers, one at a time up and toward your thumb.
  5. Repeat as many times as necessary with each hand.

Always check with your doctor or physical therapist before you begin any exercise program. They’ll know which activities are best for you. They can also answer questions about:

  • Pain medications
  • Hot or cold treatments
  • Products you can get from hardware stores or drugstores, like jar openers or easy-grip tools, to make living with RA easier
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on January 30, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Arthritis Foundation: “4th Range of Motion Routine.”

Steuart Laboratories: “10-Second Morning Hand Exercises.”

Rheumatoidarthritis.net: “Exercise.”

Mayo Clinic: “Slide Show: Exercises for People With Arthritis.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Ways to Prevent Hand and Wrist Pain and Get Around.”

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