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 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.
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.
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.
- Hold a small rubber ball — one that's small enough to fit into your palm.
- Grasp all of your fingers around it and squeeze the ball as tightly as possible.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds.
- Relax and repeat for 2 sets of 15 reps.
The Best Hand Grip Exercise Balls
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lay your hand down flat on a table and stretch your thumb away from your palm as far as you can.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds, then return to the starting position.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the elbow of your affected thumb on a table or other flat surface.
- Gently bend your wrist forward and hold for 5 seconds. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.
- Next, gently bend your wrist backward and hold for 5 seconds. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.
- Gently move your wrist from side to side, as if you're giving a handshake, and hold for 5 seconds in each direction.
- Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.