Losing Your Grip? How Nurses Can Rebuild Hand Strength

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Hand exercises help rebuild strength.As we all know, technology continues to play an important role in the world of health care. More treatment options exist for diseases than ever before, and we can now access all our vital health information — from sleeping patterns to nutrition and workout patterns — in the palm of our hand.

But all that time spent on our phones may be taking a toll, not just on our attention span or vision, but our hands, too. The authors of a study in the Using a dynamometer, a device that measures grip force in pounds, a group of occupational therapists found that men younger than 30 had weaker hand grips than their counterparts from 1985. The same was also true for women ages 20 to 24.

Based on these findings, it may be time to update what’s considered “normal” hand strength, a measurement used to assess the severity of injuries and the recovery of patients. But for phone-dependent nurses who perform physical labor as a part of patient care, this news creates an even bigger problem.

Luckily, there are a few simple things nurses — can do to maintain hand strength, not the least of which are hand exercises. Here are eight exercises you can do just about anywhere, adapted from Lisa Bernstein’s Osteoarthritis Treatment.

1. Finger stretch

This stretch helps with pain relief and improves the range of motion in your hands. Start by placing your hand, palm down, on a flat surface like a table. Slowly straighten your fingers until they are as flat as they can be without causing pain. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before relaxing, and repeat at least four times with each hand.

2. Claw stretch

Like the finger stretch, the claw stretch helps to improve the range of motion in your fingers. Start by holding your hand out in front of you with your palm facing out. Next, bend your fingertips down so they touch the base of each finger joint so your hand looks like a claw. Hold this potion for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat at least four times with each hand.

3. Squeeze ball

This is an easy one: All you have to do is find a soft ball and squeeze it as hard as you can, holding the position for a few seconds each time before releasing. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times on each hand, but don’t do it more than every other day, as you could hurt your hand from overexertion.

4. Pinch strengthener

Place a soft foam ball between the tips of your finger and thumb and hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds. Similar to the squeeze ball, you want to repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times on each hand and leave yourself a 48-hour break between each session.

5. Finger lift

This exercise is a variation on the finger stretch. Place your hand flat, palm down on a table or other surface. Then, gently lift one finger at a time off the table, lowering it after a few seconds. If you want, you can lift all your fingers and thumb at once and lower them together — or separately — as well. Repeat eight to 12 times on each hand.

6. Thumb extension

Place your hand flat on a table and wrap a rubber band around your hands at the base of your finger joints. Move your thumb away from your fingers as fast as you can, but make sure to keep the motion fluid to avoid injury. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds and release. Repeat 10 to 15 times with both hands.

7. Thumb flex

Like the claw stretch, start with your hand out in front of you with your palm facing up. Extend your thumb away from your other fingers as far as you can, and then bend your thumb across your palm so it touches the base of your small finger. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat at least four times with both thumbs.

8.  Thumb touch

Start by holding your hand out in front of you with your wrist straight. Touch your thumb to each of your four fingertips, one at a time so that it makes the shape of an O. Hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, repeating at least four times with each hand.

Final reminder

Make sure you warm up your hands before you exercise if they feel painful or stiff. The warmup will make it easier to move and stretch and therefore get the most of these exercises. Like any other stretch, stop immediately if you feel sharp or intense pain at any point.

Finally, if you don’t want to worry about remembering these exercises, just playing with clay or putty like play dough can help keep your hands strong.

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