hand stiffness

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) causes joint inflammatory pain with skin inflammation and scaly skin patches or psoriasis. Finger and toe joints are commonly affected by the condition. Oftentimes, PsA also causes hand stiffness.

Simple stretches and exercises can help reduce stiffness. Try the following three exercises to decrease joint pain, keep your fingers limber, and increase your productivity and independence.

1. Flex and bend

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 to keep you flexible.

Steady your arm by placing your bent elbow on a table or armrest. Keep your wrist straight. Begin by bending your fingers down and back up. After completing several repetitions of finger bends, slowly make a fist with your hand and hold for 10 seconds. Then, flex your fingers upward as if you were going to catch a baseball and hold for 10 seconds.

Remember to work slowly and smoothly. The inflammation in the small joints of your fingers may make flexing and bending difficult at times. Try warming your hands before beginning.

2. Finger touches

finger touches

This exercise focuses on making slow and deliberate movements. Don’t worry if your PsA symptoms hinder your movement. Just move your finger as far as possible.

Begin with your palm facing up and your fingers extended (straightened) fully. Bend your thumb across your palm until you touch the base of your pinky finger. After holding for five seconds, 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 your palm facing up) between each finger touch.

3. Finger sliding

finger walking

This stretch works to preserve joint function and strengthen the muscles of your hand. Finger sliding can help prevent hand stiffness during a PsA flare-up.

Place your palm down on a table. Your fingers should be spread apart. Slide your index finger toward your thumb without bending it. Continue the exercise by sliding each of your fingers toward your thumb. When you’ve finished return your fingers to the starting position.

Talk to your doctor

PsA can be controlled through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular exercise. Of course, symptoms vary from person to person. Because of this, the hand exercises that are right for you might not be most effective for another person’s pain or hand stiffness. Talk with your doctor to discuss your treatment plan and determine which exercises are right for you.

You asked, we answered

  • How often should I practice hand and finger exercises?
  • Specific exercises are a great way to stretch your joints and ease some of the pain in those joints. Your doctor or physical therapist will give you an exercise regimen tailored to you. It will include exercises and stretches and how often to do them. The plan should focus on range of motion, strength, and endurance.

    In general, it should be safe to perform these exercises a few times a day. 

    - Debra Sullivan PhD, MSN, CNE, COI