These 4 Simple Thumb Rehab Exercises Relieve Pain and Improve Mobility

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These thumb rehab exercises can help improve strength and range of motion.
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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.

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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 happens when the tendons around the base of your thumb (where your thumb hooks into your hand) become inflamed, painful and tender whenever you grab something or turn your wrist.

If you're dealing with thumb tendonitis or another thumb injury, 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

Before you try these moves, ask your physical therapist about which thumb rehab exercises are best for your injury.

1. Rubber Ball Exercise

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 2
Reps 15
  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.

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)

2. Object Pick-Up Exercise

Sets 4
Reps 5
  1. Pick up a small object (like a die) between your pointer finger and thumb.
  2. Put the object back down.
  3. Pick up the object with only your middle finger and thumb.
  4. Put it back down.
  5. Repeat this motion using each of your fingers and thumb, one at a time.

3. Range-of-Motion Thumb Exercise

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

4. Range-of-Motion Wrist Exercise

Sets 2
Reps 15
  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.

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