Do You Suffer From Stiffness Or Pain in Your Hands Or Wrists? Here May Be Some Reasons Why

It is estimated that 30-40 million adults in the US over the age of 45 complain about stiffness in the hands and fingers ranging from general stiffness to one of the many forms of Arthritis. Sort of like that feeling you get when it’s cold outside, only it isn’t cold. Not all symptoms of stiffness in the hands and fingers are due to one of the many forms of Arthritis. Today more than ever people’s hands are simply overworked, whether from a hobby such as playing musical instruments to knitting to rock climbing, playing tennis or data entry work on the computer. Day after day, our hands perform arduous tasks of varying intensity, but the demand is always on one side of the hand; using the muscles responsible for gripping and squeezing. Due to this constant stimulation, the flexor muscles of the hands and fingers significantly over power their opposing counterpart, the finger extensors or muscles that pull the fingers open.

As with the rest of the body, when one group of muscles and the joints they surround such as the hips, knees or shoulders, get overused, the percentage and risk of injury increases. The joints of the fingers are constantly being used with virtually every activity we do, just as mine are now writing this article.

Within the past 10 years, the majority of Americans have integrated computers and mobile devices into their everyday lives. This unknowingly places an even greater amount of stress on the muscles used to close the hand. Statistics show that parts of the body that take abuse due to repetitive, forceful activities over extended periods of time often leads to arthritis in those joints along with tissue damage such as tendonitis. Similar to retired athletes, symptoms may not manifest until many years later.

There are numerous theories regarding the breakdown of our joints causing stiffness and conditions such as Osteo Arthritis which leads to reduced range of motion and weakening in the muscles surrounding those joints.

So, what can be done to make the hands and fingers feel and function better and reduce the stiffness that often times gets in the way of doing the activities we enjoy? A good strategy is one that emphasizes a multi prong approach.

Always check with your doctor for any symptoms to rule out conditions that need further evaluation and treatment. But a few things that will likely make a positive difference without taking much time or money would be to exercise the hands and fingers in a large bowl of warm water for a few minutes each day to get the joints of the fingers moving while in a warm environment. The resistance generated by the water will help exercise the hands and provide some mild muscle stimulation. Also, it is important to make sure to stretch the muscles in the palms by pulling back on the fingers several times a day, this will help improve finger joint range of motion as well as improve flexibility in the muscles in the palms and wrist that are tight and overworked.

Last and likely most important is to exercise the muscles that move the fingers in the opposite direction of we use them each day. This is probably one of the most important exercises the hands can do to re-balance all of the on sided activities that the hands repetitively perform. Rubber bands and therapy putty have some levels of effectiveness but are more limited than they are effective as they are not specifically designed for that task. There is a device called The Xtensor, similar to pieces of equipment found in health clubs; The Xtensor is specifically designed to exercise the fingers in the opposite direction of how we use them every day it works on either hand and allows each finger to exercise independent of the other. As with exercise for any other part of the body, rest is important meaning exercise the muscles to the point of fatigue but allow them to rest, recover so they can exercise again but only just a bit stronger.