Craftsmen’s hands hold a lifetime of skill in them. They transform cold clay, unfinished wood, raw metal, blank canvas, or uncut fabric into unique pieces, each a form of art in its way. Unfortunately, years of effort can take a toll on the hands. Without proper preventative care, the repetitive motions these skills require can cause injuries or conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, or arthritis. When your hands are your livelihood, a debilitating injury can mean the end of your career and your passion. Fortunately, there are ways to keep hands limber and healthy that can help you prevent hand pain or injury. We put together tips for stretching and exercising your hands:
Limber Up Those Fingers.
Many kinds of craftsmanship require hours of repetitive motions handling small tools to carve, stitch, or paint, which can strain hands. Stretching to relax your hands and wrists before you begin working and taking hourly breaks to stretch while working can help prevent the development of conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis by keeping your hands limber. Stretching can also help you notice pain and stiffness that may be a sign of strain from overuse. Try working these exercises into your daily routine to help prevent hand pain and build flexibility:
- When you stretch for the first time in the day, warm up your hands and get your circulation moving by touching your thumbs to the tips of each of your fingers. Right thumb to right pinky, left thumb to left pinky, and so on. Repeat this twice for each hand then close your hand into a fist before spreading your fingers out wide.
- Begin stretching your fingers by laying your hand palm down on a flat surface and gently press your fingers out as straight as you can. Repeat five times for each hand.
- With your palm facing you, curl your fingers in so the tips touch the base of each finger. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat five times for each hand.
Stretch your wrists by holding your arm out with your hand raised in a “stop” motion. Gently pull back your fingers towards you and hold for the count of ten. With your arm extended, drop your hand until your fingertips point towards the floor. Cup the back of your hand and gently pull it towards you and hold for the count of ten. Repeat this exercise three times for each wrist.
Take Strength in Hand.
When you aren’t working on creative projects, exercise your hands to build strength and maintain flexibility in your joints, tendons, and ligaments to help reduce the strain your work puts on your hands. This can help prevent the development of repetitive stress conditions like tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as reduce the risk of degenerative conditions like arthritis. Try using therapeutic putty, a flexible silicone polymer, for these exercises.
The putty works similarly to a stress ball, your hands and fingers work against the putty’s resistance. Roll the putty back and forth in your hands to warm up before you begin. Try to work these exercises into your routine several days each week. Here are some exercises to try:
- Flatten a ball of putty into a pancake and place it on top of your held together fingertips. Slowly spread your fingertips apart, so the putty stretches out between them. Repeat three times for each hand.
- Take a one-inch ball of putty and squeeze it between the gap between your fingers, placing it close to where your fingers and palm meet, working from the space between your thumb and index finger down to the gap between your ring and pinky finger. Do one rotation for each hand.
- Roll the putty into a snake. Hold your hand up with your palm facing you, with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Spread your fingers out, then point one finger toward your chest, leaving the other fingers pointing at the ceiling. Loop your putty snake around your pointed finger, holding the ends of the snake in your opposite hand. Pull back with your bent finger, trying to move it to point towards the ceiling again. Keep the hand holding the ends of the snake still and let the finger the snake is wrapped around do the work. Repeat this with each finger once on each hand.
Home exercises can help maintain hand and wrist health, but only a hand specialist can diagnose the source of your problem and prescribe treatment. When your hands hurt, or struggle with tasks they have done for years, this can be a warning sign of a more serious condition. If you’re experiencing hand pain that doesn’t subside with stretching or strength exercises, or if stretching or exercising causes pain, it’s time to put your hands in ours. Whether you’re a professional craftsman or a hobbyist, don’t let hand pain stop you from doing what you love, schedule an appointment with the Hand Surgery Specialist of Texas today.