Our sense of touch, essential to our survival from the moment we are born, is one that we often take for granted. Shaking the hands of new people we meet, handing nostalgic finger foods, writing Post-It note reminders to ourselves, feeling the texture of a throw pillow before we purchase—all of these activities and more are made possible with the use of these dexterous body parts.
It is precisely why any signs of weakness in this fine motor skill can be alarming and possibly hazardous to our health. With both age and overuse, it’s no surprise that our hands and fingers can lose their agility, but it’s critical to recognize whether it’s just a sign of fatigue or something more serious.
Our hands and fingers contain numerous ligaments, sheaths, bones and muscles; each of which come with their own set of symptoms and possible ailments. According to the United Kingdom National Health Service, pain in the palms and fingers is most often a result of direct injury or bruising, which in turn causes aching, numbness, inflammation, a weak grip and more.
If these symptoms persist longer than a short while, it could be an indicator of a more looming condition that could require more serious attention, such as:
● TENDONITIS: extreme inflammation of muscle tissue
● ARTHRITIS: swollen joints
● GANGLION CYS: a fluid-filled sac near a joint or tendon
● CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME: nerve pressure
● PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY: damage to motor nerves
● ERYTHROMELALGIA: a rare condition causing heat, pain and redness in the skin of the palms
While any of these conditions should immediately prompt you to visit your physician, it’s especially vital to keep up with your hand health. Untreated ailments can cause loss of sensation, popping or clicking of the joints, poor grip strength, and more issues that can cause significant disruption of daily activities.
If you’ve recently sustained an injury to the hands or are in a profession that requires constant exertion
of dexterous tasks like typing or construction, it’s a good idea to practice some exercises that can prevent early onset of or ease many of these conditions.
Here are seven hand and finger movements recommended by the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.
#1 DIFFERENTIAL TENDON GLIDING
Begin with a closed-finger, open palm position. Alternate bending the different joints on the hand down towards the palm, starting with the knuckles.
# 2 REVERSE BLOCKING
Curl one hand into a fist and insert the thumb of the opposite hand where the fingers curl. With that thumb in place, open and close the curl, using the rest of the fingers on the opposite hand to control the movement.
#3 DIP JOINT BLOCKING
Starting with a flat palm, place the thumb of the opposite hand on the middle joint of each finger, slowly bending the top joint towards that thumb.
#4 PIP JOINT BLOCKING
Starting the same way as the previous exercise, now place the thumb of the opposite hand on the bottom joint of the finger, slowly bending towards the thumb.
#5 WRIST FLEXION AND EXTENSION
Supporting the forearm, form a fist and slowly move the wrist from one extreme to the other.
#6 WRIST RADIAL AND ULNAR DEVIATION
Grip your wrist with the hand not in use as you slowly move your flattened palm from side to side, as if wiping a countertop.
#7 WRIST CIRCUMDUCTION
Often called “alphabet writing,” form the hand into a fist while gripping the wrist with the opposite hand. Keeping steady, “write” each letter of the alphabet with your fist.
With everything our hands and fingers do for us, it’s only fair we pay them the same attention as other aspects of our physicality. Keeping up with your hand health by performing these exercises and consistent check-ups will help ensure you’re present for precious moments and tasks that need a hand.