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Video: Hand exercises to relieve arthritis pain

Exercise may be the last thing on your mind if you have arthritis pain.

Keeping your joints in a bent position is tempting because it’s comfortable, but your joints will feel more stiff and painful if you aren’t active.

“Exercise keeps joint fluid moving and creates space between the joints, causing them to be less irritated,” said Alyssa Schroeder, a Marshfield Clinic physical therapist.

Range of motion exercises for hand arthritis

Improve mobility and strength with range of motion exercises. The first video in our four-part series shows exercises targeting arthritis pain in your hands. Work your affected joints every day.

Get the printable guide for these exercises.

Exercise DescriptionsPreview of Hand exercises download


Using short strokes, massage the muscles in your palm and base of your thumb using the opposite hand. Roll your hand over a tennis ball on a table top for more pressure.

To massage your fingers, start at the tips and push toward your hand. You can massage your fingers individually or in a group.

Work each hand for one minute.

Fist clenches

Squeeze a stress ball or make a tight fist. Relax and repeat 10-20 times on each hand.

Tendon glides

Complete 3-5 repetitions of each exercise before moving to the next position, or do the entire sequence as a fluid movement and repeat 3-5 times. Hold each position for 2-3 seconds.

  1. Straight position: Start with an open hand.
  2. Hook position: Bend your fingers at the middle joints so the tips are touching the pads at the base of your fingers.
  3. Duck position: Straighten the middle joints of your fingers so your hand forms an “L” shape.
  4. Straight fist position: Bend your fingers at the first and middle joints only. Your fingertips should rest gently on your palm.
  5. Full fist position: Bring your fingers up to make a fist and squeeze gently.
  6. Hanging limp wrist position: Extend your fingers and bend your wrist forward. Let your hand hang forward.
  7. Wrist extension position: With your hand open, pull your wrist back.

“Bring your joint through the range of motion you have available,” Schroeder said. “Don’t try to push your joint farther than it’s able to go.”

If the exercises are painful, talk to a physical therapist about other exercises you can do at home to improve mobility.

Download Hand Exercises for Arthritis Handout


Check out more arthritis exercises

Part 2: Neck and shoulder exercises to relieve arthritis pain

Part 3: Knee exercises to relieve arthritis pain

Part 4: Ankle exercises to relieve arthritis pain

View all videos in this series: Watch on YouTube.

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