Exercises for Tendonitis in the Fingers

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Finger tendonitis symptoms can limit your mobility and keep you from working or doing simple day-to-day tasks like writing or cooking. The use of tablets and smartphones contributes to this painful condition. Luckily, most cases respond to nonsurgical care, such as exercise and physiotherapy.

Long hours of typing can trigger tendonitis in the fingers.
Image Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Tetra images/GettyImages

What Is Tendonitis?

Each year, more than 70,000 U.S. adults miss work because of tendonitis, according to HSS. Also known as tendinitis, this inflammatory condition affects your tendons, causing pain and swelling. Tendons are thick bands of fibrous connective tissue that connect your muscles to the bones. The pain is usually felt where the muscle attaches to the bone, not in the muscle itself.

Tendonitis may cause pain in just about any tendon in your body. Most people experience this issue in their hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders.

Read more: 3 Gentle Exercises for Nagging Wrist Pain

Trigger finger, for example, is a form of tendonitis that causes the fingers to become locked in a bent position. It is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis. Its symptoms may include finger stiffness, numbness and a popping sensation when moving the fingers, notes the Mayo Clinic.

Tenosynovitis can affect the ankles and feet too, causing inflammation of the sheath that surrounds a tendon. According to the University of Rochester, both tendonitis and tenosynovitis may trigger pain, swelling and a grating feeling when you move your fingers or other joints. Therefore, if you have a swollen index finger, any of these conditions may be to blame.

Finger Tendonitis Symptoms and Causes

Finger tendonitis symptoms depend on the form of the disease. Generally, sufferers report pain in the tissues surrounding a joint. The affected area may become red and swollen. You may also experience weakness in your fingers, making it difficult to use your hands. Tenderness and limited range of motion are common too, notes Harvard Health Publishing.

Medical professionals don't know the exact cause of tendonitis and tenosynovitis. Most times, these conditions result from overuse, overtraining, strains or infections. Inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may contribute to the onset of tendonitis too, points out the University of Rochester.

Read more: How Do I Work Out With Tendinitis?

Everyday activities, such as surfing the internet on your tablet or smartphone, may cause tendonitis in the wrist and fingers. A growing number of children and teens are dealing with these issues because of the overuse of handheld devices, reports Piedmont Healthcare. Researchers recommend taking frequent breaks from using your tablet or smartphone and placing your gadgets on a tabletop so you don't have to hold them while typing.

Does Exercise Help With Tendonitis?

In general, finger tendonitis symptoms can be successfully treated with the RICE method, according to HSS. This acronym stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Stretching may help too.

Avoid activities that tend to worsen the pain, such as typing on your computer or smartphone. If your symptoms don't subside within days, reach out to a doctor or physical therapist.

Certain exercises and stretches for tendonitis in the hand may help restore your mobility. Over time, these simple movements may relieve pain and inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing recommends doing one set of 10 reps for each exercise, three times a day. Here are two exercises you can try anytime:

Move 1: Thumb Flexion and Extension

  1. Position your thumb in the palm of your hand.
  2. Move it across the palm and back.
  3. Hold it in your palm for five to 10 seconds to fully reap the benefits.

Move 2: Tendon Glide

  • Keep your fingers straight out and then make a hook fist.
  • Hold for five to 10 seconds, return to the starting position and make a full fist.
  • Hold for another five to 10 seconds, straighten your fingers and then make a straight fist.
  • Pause again and return to the initial position. Repeat.

The Yeovil District Hospital describes several other flexor tendon gliding exercises and stretches. Consider trying the following movements:

Move 3: Fist Position

  1. Start with wrist and fingers straight
  2. Make a fist, holding the stretch for a few seconds.
  3. Return to the initial position.

Move 4: Isolated Gliding of FDP (Flexor Digitorum Profundus)

  1. If you have a painful, swollen index finger, bend its tip with your other hand.
  2. Straighten it again.
  3. Repeat up to 10 times.

Read more: 10 Stretches That Will Make You Feel Like a New Person

Seek medical advice if your symptoms persist. Your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs, steroid injections or other treatment options, depending on the severity of your condition. Early diagnosis may help eliminate the need for surgery.

Is This an Emergency?

To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 infections, it is best to call your doctor before leaving the house if you are experiencing a high fever, shortness of breath or another, more serious symptom.
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