Exercise for thumb arthritis
An increasing body of evidence is out there for the benefits of strengthening exercises for thumb arthritis. Exactly which exercises? Still nothing specific from the literature!
Go for pain-free
We try and give pain-free exercises whenever we can, particularly ones where the thumb joint remains in a stable position. Maintaining a stable position can be really hard to start with for some people, so this is where we would start.
The trick is not allowing the middle joint (MP joint) to sag down when you are starting strengthening exercises. Sometimes this position is called a ‘circular pinch’. It is worth making sure you are able to get good control of this position, before progressing on to more difficult exercises against resistance.
Relearning a movement pattern can take time and concentration – it took many years to develop the old pattern, so be patient!
Effective motor learning happens when:
- You give the task your full undivided attention – even for short bursts. You need as many motor nerves as possible focused on the job at hand.
- You only continue the exercise when you are getting it right – otherwise you are practicing it doing it wrong!
- When it all goes well, reward yourself (‘yay!’) – a squirt of endorphins makes the new pattern ‘stick’
Catch yourself doing it right!
What fires together, wires together – in other words, the more you do it right, the better you will be at doing it right without thinking about it too much. In other words, you’ve made a ‘new normal’.
If the exercises are pain-free, you’ll be getting better at not having pain – double yay!! If you need help getting the hang of it – hand therapists are a good starting point. You can find one here.
Nga Mihi, Alison