How To Stretch Your Hands, According To Physical Therapists
For happier, healthier mitts.
Even if you’re a bona fide stretching girly, there’s a high chance that your arms, legs, back, and glutes get most of the love whenever you’re on the mat. But when was the last time you purposefully stretched your hands?
Just like any other kind of stretch, hand stretches help improve flexibility and mobility in your fingers and wrists — which is actually really important, just as it is for other areas of your body. And #FitTok is catching on: There’s a growing community of folks preaching the gospel of hand mobility and posting instructional vids on how to stretch your hands (the topic has over 58 billion views on TikTok, FYI). You use them practically all day, every day, after all, so it’s no wonder experts are cosigning the newfound social media spotlight on hand mobility.
“Hand mobility is the capacity of the hands to move easily and painlessly across their whole range of motion,” says Stephen Dunn, MPT, COMT, PMA-CPT, a holistic physical therapist. “This comprises wrist rotations as well as flexions (bending), extensions (straightening), adductions (putting your fingers together), and abductions (spreading your fingers apart).”
Throughout the day, your hands are constantly moving, whether you’re typing, texting, eating, or driving, says Daniela Bucio, PT, DPT, a board-certified physical therapist. “Because we perform these activities repetitively, our hand muscles are often overused, [and that can lead] to stiffness or joint pain,” she tells Bustle. And so: “Performing hand mobility exercises can help improve the function of your hands and reduce the risk of injury.” Here’s everything to know about improving your hand mobility so your mitts can stay nice and loose.
Signs You Need To Stretch Your Hands
It’s not uncommon for your hands to get stiff as you do repetitive tasks, like typing, writing, or using your phone, Bucio says. When you keep your hands in the same position for hours on end without a break — think typing with claw hands or texting with your thumbs — it causes your muscles to get tired. And that’s when hand pain and stiffness set in.
You’ll know you need to stretch your hands if they feel stiff or achy, or if you experience issues like hand weakness, trouble grasping onto objects, or if you struggle with dexterity, Dunn explains. Simple things, like holding your toothbrush, might cause them to cramp up. Hand stretches also come in, um, handy, after a workout — like when you grip onto heavy dumbbells.
“In general, it is beneficial to stretch daily or up to twice per day,” Bucio says. “Hand muscles and joints tend to be the stiffest in the morning and in the late evening, so stretching during one or both of these times would be best.”
Bucio also recommends taking stretch breaks during repetitive tasks so you don’t overdo it. Of course, if you keep experiencing hand pain even after stretching, Dunn suggests getting a checkup to ensure your hand pain isn’t due to something else, like an injury or arthritis.
Hand Stretches To Try
This TikTok zeros in on your hands with a round of finger circles, a tissue press, wrist flexion stretches, a series of prayer pose stretches, and wrist rotations. Choose a few moves and give them a try.
You could also try this easy one-minute hand stretching sequence to wake up stiff muscles — perfect when you’re taking a break at work. You’ll do handshakes, prayer poses, interlocked hand squeezes, and a deep tissue thumb massage.
Remember, wrist mobility is key, too. This TikTok has juicy wrist rolls, spread finger stretches, and other mini-exercises for your hands that’ll help keep things loose.
Hand feeling cramped? Try spreading your fingers out one by one, as demonstrated in this TikTok.
Your hands do a lot for you, so treat them to a series of stretches on the regular.
Williams, MA. (2018). Exercise for rheumatoid arthritis of the hand. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003832.pub3.
Stephen Dunn, MPT, COMT, PMA-CPT, holistic physical therapist
Daniela Bucio, PT, DPT, board-certified physical therapist