These 4 Simple Thumb Rehab Exercises Relieve Pain and Improve Mobility

LIVESTRONG.com may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
These thumb rehab exercises can help improve strength and range of motion.
Image Credit: vkbhat/E+/GettyImages

Between texting, typing, gripping groceries and cutting open packages, your hands get a lot of action during the day. But this frequent, repetitive use can make your thumbs prone overuse injuries, including tendonitis and sprains.

Video of the Day

One common issue that comes up with overuse is thumb tendonitis, also known as De Quervain's tendinitis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This condition happens when the tendons around the base of your thumb, right where your thumb hooks into your hand, become inflamed. This irritation causes swelling, pain and tenderness around your wrists when grasping, gripping or turning your wrists.

Advertisement

If you're dealing with thumb tendonitis or another thumb injury, doing thumb rehab exercises can help promote blood flow and increase the range of motion through your thumb joint. Here are four movements, courtesy of Tufts Medical Center, that you can do throughout the day to ease discomfort and help your recovery.

Warning

It's important to first consult a physical therapist about what type of thumb rehab exercises are best for your injury before you start incorporating them into your routine.

Move 1: Rubber Ball Exercise

This hand exercise strengthens your thumb, and entire hand. Do it for muscular balance and improved function.

Steps:

Advertisement

  1. Hold a small rubber ball — one that's small enough to fit into your palm.
  2. Grasp all of your fingers around it and squeeze the ball as tightly as possible.
  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  4. Relax and repeat for 2 sets of 15 reps.

The Best Hand Grip Exercise Balls

  • Hand Therapy Pro Gel Squeeze Ball (Amazon, $11.19)
  • Vive Hand Exercise Balls (Amazon, $12.99)
  • Serenilite Hand Therapy Exercise Ball (Amazon, $19.99)

Move 2: Object Pick-Up Exercise

Anyone with skier's thumb will love this simple thumb rehab exercise. Skier's thumb is sprain or tear to the ulnar collateral ligament, which sits at the base of your thumb, according to Stanford Healthcare.

Advertisement

Steps:

  1. Pick up a variety of small objects, such as paper clips, safety pins, pencils, coins and marbles, using your thumb and each of your other fingers, one at a time.
  2. Practice this exercise for 5 minutes.

Move 3: Range-of-Motion Thumb Exercise

This thumb sprain exercise helps increase the function and movement of your affected hand, according to Tufts Medical Center.

Advertisement

Steps:

  1. Lay your hand down flat on a table and stretch your thumb away from your palm as far as you can.
  2. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  3. Next, lift your hand slightly off the table in a handshake position and stretch your thumb away from your palm as far as possible. Hold here for 5 seconds and then return to the starting position.
  4. Stretch your thumb across your palm toward your pinky finger and hold this position for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  5. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.

Move 4: Range-of-Motion Wrist Exercise

Treatment for a thumb injury can often mean time spent in a cast or splint that restricts the range of motion and functioning of your wrist. This can leave your wrist weak and stiff. This exercise can help improve the strength and function in your wrist and into the base of your thumb.

Steps:

  1. Place the elbow of your affected thumb on a table or other flat surface.
  2. Gently bend your wrist forward and hold for 5 seconds. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.
  3. Next, gently bend your wrist backward and hold for 5 seconds. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.
  4. Gently move your wrist from side to side, as if you're giving a handshake, and hold for 5 seconds in each direction.
  5. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.

Related Reading

Advertisement

references