The role of hand therapy and exercise in managing finger arthritis


Arthritis, particularly in the fingers, can be a debilitating condition, leading to pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. However, with appropriate management strategies, individuals can significantly alleviate these symptoms and improve their quality of life. Among the most effective of these strategies are physical therapy and exercise. Here is a comprehensive guide on how these approaches can be beneficial for those suffering from finger arthritis.

Understanding finger arthritis

Before delving into the role of hand therapy and exercise, it is crucial to understand what finger arthritis entails. This condition typically involves inflammation, swelling, and wear and tear of the cartilage in the joints of the fingers, ultimately leading to pain and stiffness. While there are various types of arthritis, the most common in the fingers are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis, often associated with ageing, results from the gradual wear and tear of joint cartilage. This type of arthritis usually affects the distal interphalangeal joints (closest to the nail) and can lead to joint deformities and bone spurs over time. In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. This condition often starts in the smaller joints, like those in the fingers and toes, leading to symmetrical joint swelling, chronic pain, and, in severe cases, joint destruction and deformity.

Hand therapy: A cornerstone in management

Hand therapy plays a pivotal role in managing the condition. It involves specialised techniques and exercises supervised by a qualified physical therapist. The primary goals in this context are to maintain or improve joint flexibility, strengthen the muscles around the joints, and ultimately reduce pain and discomfort.

One key aspect of hand therapy for finger arthritis is the custom-tailored exercise regimen. These exercises are designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons in the hands, thereby supporting the arthritic joints. An orthopaedic hand specialist often works closely with hand therapists to develop these exercise programs, ensuring they meet the specific needs of each individual.

Effective exercises

The most effective exercises will depend on your specific condition and your hand therapist will guide you how to undertake these.

Integrating physical therapy and exercise into daily routines

Incorporating hand therapy exercises into your daily routine is crucial for managing finger arthritis effectively. It is recommended to set aside specific times of the day for these exercises to ensure consistency. Additionally, integrating them into regular activities, like watching TV or taking a break from work, can make them more manageable.

The role of assistive devices

Using assistive devices can also help individuals perform exercises more comfortably and effectively. These devices may include hand grips, splints, springs, gloves resistance bands, or specialised tools designed to improve joint movement and strength without causing additional stress on the joints.

Lifestyle modifications for optimal benefits

Coupled with physical therapy and exercise, lifestyle modifications can further help manage the symptoms of finger arthritis. These modifications may include ergonomic adjustments at work, using joint-friendly tools for daily tasks, and adopting a diet that helps reduce inflammation.

When to consult a professional

While hand therapy and exercise are generally safe for people, it is important to consult with healthcare professionals before starting any new exercise regimen. A hand therapist or an orthopaedic hand specialist can provide guidance tailored to your specific condition and needs.

By improving joint flexibility, increasing muscle strength, and reducing pain, these strategies can significantly enhance the quality of life for individuals with this condition. It’s important to remember that consistency is key in these exercises, and integrating them into daily life can make a significant difference.

If pain or discomfort persists despite regular exercises and physical therapy, it may be time to consult a hand and wrist surgeon for further evaluation and treatment options. Ultimately, a comprehensive approach combining all of these approaches is typically the most effective way to manage finger arthritis and maintain hand function. 



Written by Aria

Story MakerYears Of MembershipContent Author

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