By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
Did you know there are 35 powerful muscles that move the human hand, 15 are in the forearm. The 20 muscles within the hand itself, are arranged so that the hands and fingers can make a variety of delicate and precise movements. It can be devastating when a disease like arthritis strikes the finger joints and not only causes pain, but seriously limits the functions of the hands that we take for granted. A common deformity in rheumatoid arthritis is called ulnar deviation, where the fingers drift toward the little finger.
The most current data at the more recent conferences on exercises for arthritis indicates that perhaps some of the exercises we’ve done for ulnar drift in the past, could be more detrimental than helpful. For this reason, it’s always wise to check out any exercise with your doctor or therapist. Generally speaking, it is recommended not to put pressure on the back of the fingers.
Here are some exercises you can do safely to help with ulnar deviation/rheumatoid arthritis:
1) Make a fist and slowly open the fingers one at a time, like a flower that is blooming.
Now, let’s focus on an exercise to increase the mobility of the thumb joint. This exercise will provide a stretch for the thumb itself.
2) The hand is opened, with the palm facing up and the fingers as straight as possible. Bring the thumb across the palm to touch the pad of the little finger, and then return the thumb to the starting position.
3) End with a gentle stroking of each finger — pretend you are putting on a glove.
By doing a balance of stretching and strengthening, your hands will remain the mechanical miracle they are.
Great post, I might add that a good occupational therapist will also work on strengthening the hand to help prevent progression of ulnar deviation.