Thumb Range of Motion & Strengthening Exercises

Tennis ball
Exercises to strengthen the thumb and improve range of motion can reduce joint pain. (Image: c11yg/iStock/Getty Images)

Whether because of injury, arthritis or advancing age, the joints of your fingers can become stiff and difficult to move. While it can be painful initially, performing regular exercises to improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles can reduce pain and swelling, according to the University of Washington. Performing these exercises once to twice per day can help you to achieve these improvements.

Open and Close

Use this exercise from the University of Washington School of Medicine to relax the thumbs and then restore range of motion to the fingers. Begin by massaging the area around the thumb. This helps to relieve tension in the thumb being massaged and also engages the massaging hand in motion. After you have massaged both hands, slowly open and close the fingers up to 10 times. This helps to restore range of motion and can be repeated on a daily basis.

Thumb Opposition

This exercise from PhysioAdvisor strengthens the thumb and improves range of motion. To perform, touch the thumb with the index finger and press the fingers together for five seconds. Release the fingers and then meet the thumb and middle finger together and hold for five seconds again. Repeat this exercise on the ring and pinkie finger. Rest after you have performed the strengthening exercises on all fingers, and then repeat so you have worked each finger three times.

Thumb Abduction

This exercise from the Ohio State University Medical Center helps to work in opposition to the previous exercise, helping to stretch the thumb and increase your range of motion. To perform, stretch the thumb and index finger of each hand out as far as possible. Place the thumb and forefinger of your right hand between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. Stretch the right-hand thumb and fingers far apart and stretch. Release the fingers, and then repeat on the opposite side.

Tennis Ball Squeeze

This exercise from PhysioAdvisor uses a tennis ball as an assistive device. Take a tennis ball and hold normally, stretching the thumb around the tennis ball. Squeeze the tennis ball as hard as you possibly can without causing pain. Hold this for five seconds, release and then repeat 10 times. Rest and then repeat the tennis ball squeeze on the opposite hand.

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