Exercise of the Month – Hand Exercises

Hand exercises may help to reduce stiffness, improve muscle strength and joint range of motion in people who have arthritis. There is no one-size-fits-all hand prescription for people with arthritis, but an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or rheumatologist can help design a program especially for your hands.

Rest/Exercise Balance

If you have arthritis you must find the right balance between exercise and rest. Rest is often needed to settle inflamed joints, but too much rest will weaken muscles and increase stiffness.

Use these principles as a guide:

  • When joints are inflamed, rest is needed for that joint. The amount and type will depend on how inflamed your joints are.
  • Rest does not always mean lying down – it can also mean changing your posture, wearing your splint or doing a different activity.
  • Avoid the movements that cause joint pain. Jar openers, tap turners and other adaptive equipment may help to alleviate stress on joints during daily activities. Stiff joints need more exercise.
  • Joints that are weak and unstable require more support. Splints are worn to protect painful joints during certain activities. An occupational therapist can advise whether hand splints will be useful for you.

The following exercise program is worked out to involve every joint and muscle in your hands.

For 8 hand exercises (in a printable PDF), please click here: Exercise Sheets Hands


  • Do at least 5 repetitions of each exercise 2 – 3 times daily.
  • Perform each exercise SLOWLY, bending and stretching as far as possible within pain limits.
  • Relax your hand and posture during the exercises.
  • Do not exercise a joint if it is hot, red, swollen and painful. This means the joint is inflamed and should be rested and moved gently within pain limits.
  • Doing these exercises in warm water can be helpful.

Please note: Consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before commencing any new types of exercise. This information does not replace individual medical advice.