Mayo Clinic Health Library

Slide show: Hand exercises for people with arthritis

Updated: 10-09-2012

Knuckle bend

Photos demonstrating knuckle bend exercise

Hand exercises can help improve joint flexibility and range of motion in people who have arthritis. Start by holding your hand and fingers straight and close together. Bend the end and middle joints of your fingers. Keep your knuckles straight. Moving slowly and smoothly, return your hand to the starting position. If you can, perform multiple repetitions of this exercise on each hand.

Fist stretch

Photos demonstrating closed fist exercise

Start by holding your hand and fingers straight and close together, as if for a handshake — with your forearm, wrist and hand resting on a tabletop or other flat surface. Close your fingers into a gentle fist, wrapping your thumb around the outside of your fingers. Don't squeeze. Moving slowly and smoothly, return your hand to the starting position and then repeat the exercise multiple times on each hand.

Thumb stabilization

Photos demonstrating hand exercises for arthritis

Start by holding your hand and fingers straight and close together. Gently curve your fingers into a C shape, as if your hand is wrapped around a can or bottle. Moving slowly and smoothly, return your hand to the starting position and then repeat the exercise multiple times on each hand.

Fingertip touch

Photos demonstrating fingertip touch exercise

Start with holding your hand and fingers straight and close together. Form an O shape by touching your thumb to each fingertip. Moving slowly and smoothly, touch your index finger to your thumb, then follow with your middle, ring and small fingers. Repeat this exercise multiple times with each hand.

Thumb stretch

Photos demonstrating thumb stretch exercise

Start with your hand in a neutral, relaxed position with your fingers and thumb straightened. Next, bend your thumb across your palm, touching the tip of your thumb to the bottom of your small finger. If you can't make your thumb touch, just stretch as far as you can. Return your thumb to the starting position. Repeat this exercise multiple times with each hand.

Finger walk

Photos demonstrating finger walk exercise

Rest your hand on a flat surface, such as a tabletop, with your palm facing down. Move your thumb away from your hand. Beginning with your index finger, move it up and toward your thumb. Follow with moving your middle, ring and small fingers one at a time up and toward your thumb. Repeat this exercise multiple times with each hand.

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