Harvard Women's Health Watch

Help for your hands

A few simple exercises can preserve the strength and flexibility of your hands and wrists.

Image: Thinkstock

There's a reason that "having a good grip on the situation" is used as a metaphor for mastery. In physiological testing, grip strength is one of the indicators of health and vitality. Yet, although we may exercise to strengthen our cores and limbs, most of us don't make an effort to strengthen our forearms and our hands. "We use our hands continually, but we don't take the time to deliberately exercise them," says Joanne P. Bosch, a physical therapist and certified hand therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

That said, it's not a good idea to rush out and buy a device promoted for building a "crushing hand grip" or to start squeezing a tennis ball. "Doing the wrong exercise can actually exacerbate some problems, particularly carpal tunnel syndrome," Bosch says.

How the right exercises can help your hands

Therapists recommend specific exercises to treat specific conditions. Some exercises help increase a joint's range of motion or lengthen a muscle and its associated tendons through stretching; these are helpful for osteoarthritis as well as tennis elbow and golfer's elbow—but not when the joints are inflamed or painful. Other exercises strengthen muscles around a joint to generate more power or to give that specific body part greater endurance. These are helpful for resolving tendinitis and non-painful arthritis conditions.

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