Strength exercises are an essential rheumatoid arthritis treatment that can be performed at home during the week to improve the functionality of the hands. Several types of appropriate strength exercises are available that will help regardless of the severity of the rheumatoid arthritis. It is important to never perform an exercise that causes pain. A few specific exercises will build strength in the fingers and hands.
Finger presses are similar to some other stretches that are designed to increase functionality and range of motion. This exercise involves pressing the thumb against each of the fingers on the hand for a few seconds. Pushing the thumb against a finger provides enough resistance to develop the muscles. This is a very low-impact and simple exercise. It is important not to press hard enough to cause pain or discomfort.
Squeeze a Ball
A good exercise to build strength is squeezing a ball. The ball could be a soft stress ball or a firmer tennis ball. The ball is placed in the palm of the hand. The fingers and thumb are closed over the ball. The ball should be squeezed for a few seconds and then released. Repeating this squeezing action five to ten times will build strength in the hands.
Push Hands against a Table
This exercise involves placing a single hand flat on a table with the palm facing down. The other hand is then placed on top with the fingers facing to the side. The next step is to attempt to lift the fingers on the bottom hand up as far as possible without lifting the palm from the table. The resistance caused by this exercise builds a number of muscles in the fingers and hand that will improve range of motion and strength.
Stretch Flexible Bands
The use of flexible or rubber bands is one of the main types of appropriate strength exercises for people with rheumatoid arthritis. The flexible or rubber band is placed over the fingers. The fingers are then spread apart as wide as possible. This stretches the band. The resistance builds strength in muscle groups in the hand that are difficult to develop. Different bands are available that have varying levels of flexibility. People who start to build strength can upgrade to a band that is more difficult to stretch.
Lift Light Dumbbells
Part of rheumatoid arthritis treatment for people who are not experiencing serious pain often includes lifting light dumbbells. Lifting weights builds the longer muscles that connect to the wrist, palm and arm. The amount of weight needs to be light so it does not cause inflammation or pain. Most exercise routines involve a short series of lifts followed by a period of rest. Lifting weights should not be done more than two to three times a week and only when approved by a professional.
Crumpling paper can build strength and dexterity especially in people who have advanced rheumatoid arthritis. A loose ball of paper is placed in the hand. The exercise involves squeezing and compressing the ball with the fingers as quickly as possible. The grip is released as soon as the paper is crumpled completely. This type of rheumatoid arthritis treatment can keep fingers agile and strong.