As a physician, with board certifications in both Rheumatology and Internal Medicine, and in clinical practice for over 30 years, I have diagnosed and treated nearly every type of arthritis, along with other related conditions that can affect the fingers and hands. Of the nearly 100 forms of arthritis, the two most common are Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (chronic). The majority of patients with either of these conditions suffer with symptoms involving their fingers, and hands. Other conditions zeroing in on the fingers and hands include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, trigger finger and a very painful condition known as Duputrytren’s Contracture (hereditary and also associated with underlying medical conditions including diabetes / thyroid disease). These conditions can cause severe pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints or surrounding soft tissue, leading to underuse of the hands and fingers. This results in muscle loss, leading to further weakness, as well as associated deformities, and disabilities.
With any type of hand arthritis, tendonitis or other hand conditions, it is imperative for the patient to keep the muscles surrounding the affected areas as strong as possible. The more powerful the muscles around the involved joint, the better they will be able to support, and protect, the joint. This also includes the joints that are weakened, and/or damaged from arthritis. If patients do not exercise the muscles, they will atrophy. Moreover, if the joints stay in one position for too long without movement, they will lose the ability to straighten or bend, and a permanent deformity can result. Once these malformations set in, they can be very difficult to reverse.
In the past, conventional treatment for these conditions included “rest” due to the pain. However, more recent research has shown that exercise, and strengthening is essential in treating many conditions that affect the fingers and hands. We now know that patients with arthritis can, and will, improve through proper exercise.
Benefits of Exercise:
- Maintain Joint Flexibility
- Strengthen Muscles Surrounding Joint
- Sustain Proper Range of Motion
- Prevent Bone Loss
- Increase Ability to Perform Daily Activities
- Improve Quality of Life
Until recently, I typically recommended physical therapy for patients when the pain involved the back, hip or knee. I rarely referred a patient with hand symptoms for any type of therapy, or exercise program, strictly due to limited treatment options. Besides stretching, and /or hot wax regimens, there was simply very little to offer. With the introduction of FingerWeights, the recommendations, and prognosis for patients with hand and finger conditions has improved dramatically. Patients can start a structured exercise program for their fingers, which they can use at home, work, or during physical therapy. Therapists can incorporate these into any treatment plan targeting the fingers and hands. Providing patients with an effective, uncomplicated and non-strenuous exercise program, FingerWeights can be used anywhere, any time. Not only do patients see an increase in endurance and flexibility, the hands feel stronger as the patient moves through the exercises. The added strength, and overall finger, and hand, performance, can help in activities like grooming, cooking, cleaning, or even something as simple as typing an email.
Although FingerWeights are not a “cure,” they can help keep the fingers and hands, strong and flexible, allowing patients to continue being as independent as possible.
Judith E. Frank, MD
Judith Frank, MD is a paid endorser of FingerWeights