Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is joint pain that occurs in conjunction with the skin inflammation and scaling of psoriasis. Finger and toe joints are commonly affected by the condition, and hand stiffness is one painful result. This stiffness might limit your range of motion and ability to perform everyday tasks.
Physical therapy and exercise can be beneficial to PsA sufferers, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Consult your physician to obtain a referral to a physical therapist if necessary. In the meantime, keep your fingers limber, decrease joint pain, and increase your productivity and independence with the following simple hand exercises you can do on your own at home.
Flex and Bend
Flexing and bending your fingers is an example of a range of motion (ROM) exercise. ROM exercises keep your joints moving fluidly and can build muscle strength as well. The inflammation in the small joints of your fingers may make flexing and bending difficult at times. Work slowly and smoothly to bend the first knuckles of your fingers down and back up to minimize pain and stiffness and to prevent further injury. Your wrist should remain straight; steady your arm by placing your bent elbow on a table while you exercise. After completing several repetitions of finger bends, slowly make a fist with your hand and then gently flex your fingers upward as if you were going to catch a baseball.
Slow and deliberate movements with your thumb to each finger characterize the finger touch exercise. Begin with your palm facing up and your fingers extended fully; your fingertips should point toward the sky. Bend your thumb across your palm until you touch the base of your pinky finger. Don’t worry if your PsA symptoms hinder your movement; gently stretch your thumb as far as you can toward your littlest finger. Then bring your thumb back to its original position. Continue to touch the rest of your fingers in succession. Remember to return to the neutral position with palm up between each finger touch.
The lateral movements achieved through finger walking can help prevent hand stiffness during a PsA flare-up. This stretch works to not only preserve joint function, but also strengthen the muscles of your hand. Place your hand palm down on a table. Your fingers should be spread apart slightly in a natural position. “Walk” your index finger toward your thumb without bending it by shifting your digit sideways. Continue the exercise by moving each finger toward your thumb.
Psoriatic arthritis affecting the hands can be controlled through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular exercise, but symptoms vary widely among patients. The intensity and frequency of hand exercises that are appropriate for one person might not be the most effective way to combat your pain and hand stiffness. Consult your doctor to discuss you treatment plan and determine which exercises are right for you.