Perform these 5 gentle and safe finger exercises while you are in a wrist cast to avoid stiffness, pain, and swelling in the fingers.
There can be several reasons why you need a cast or splint on your wrist- a fractured (broken) wrist, a sprain or strained ligament, a wound or laceration, nerve injury, and so on.
Many times, I find it comes with an embarrassing story. It’s ok, your story is welcome here! I’ve heard them all and can definitely relate. These type of injuries happen more often than you know. With your cast on, you are probably getting lots of attention and lots of unwanted advice. Everyone has a story to tell you about how their Uncle George broke his wrist tripping over the curb or their cousin Jane broke her wrist playing ultimate Frisbee. Or what type of oil you should rub on your hand to speed up the healing.
Regardless of how it happened, you are probably here because right now, it is not your wrist bothering you. You are here because you are experiencing more stiffness and pain in your fingers or at least want to avoid stiffness.
Every year 1 million people worldwide break their wrist.
One of the most common wrist injuries is a distal radius fracture; which is a break of the large bone in your wrist near your thumb. With a distal radius fracture, the wrist is immobilized (basically not allowed to move) to allow healing to occur.
Often, the cast or splint is removable, especially if you had surgery to allow early wrist exercises. Disclosure: ONLY your Physician or Hand Therapist will tell you when you can begin wrist exercises.
According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), “During recovery, it is very important to keep your fingers moving to keep them from getting stiff. Your hand surgeon will have you start moving your wrist at the right time for your fracture.”
If your wrist is healed and you are ready to start moving, check out our video on how to improve wrist flexibility here.
In this post, I will only be addressing 5 gentle and safe finger exercises with a wrist cast on. These exercises allow the tendons and muscles in your fingers to move without allowing wrist motion. Of course, if you are in a cast that includes your fingers you should NOT perform these exercises. If your fingers and thumb are out of the cast that usually means you are free to move them!
Ideally your cast should allow full finger motion as shown here.
It is very common for fingers to get stiff when you have a cast or splint on. Swelling, pain, and restrictions from the cast or splint can quickly cause the small joints and ligaments in your fingers to lose flexibility.
This loss of flexibility can result in pain, more swelling, and potential deformities of your fingers. That is why it is so important to immediately begin gentle and safe finger exercises in a wrist cast.
Just wiggling your fingers is not
We understand how important the movement and strength of your fingers are to you.
Do these 5 gentle and safe finger exercises 10 times to each finger, 3-4 times a day.
- Start by using your uninjured hand to block the tip of your index finger. Then using your own muscles actively bend the tip of your injured index finger.
- This is a small motion and should not cause pain. Only bend hard enough to allow only the tip of the finger move. If your other fingers move, that’s fine.
- Use your uninjured hand to block the middle joint of your injured index finger. Then using your own muscles to actively bend the middle joint of your index finger.
- This joint moves more than the tip and may be painful if it is stiff. Only bend hard enough to allow only the middle joint to move. The other fingers may move too
- Now perform these first 2 exercises on ALL the finger joints; 10 times each joint.
- Straighten the large knuckles as much as you can, then bend them down. Try to only bend the large knuckles while keeping the tip and middle joints straight as shown.
- Now that you have loosened the smaller joints in your fingers you can begin making fists. This next exercise is called a straight fist.
- This is when you bend your knuckles and middle joint down while keeping the top joint straight. Ideally, you want your fingers to touch the palm of your cast as shown.
- Finally, it is time to make a full fist. This may be hard to do if your cast is thick. This exercise is important because you bend at all 3 joints in the fingers. If your cast blocks you from making a full fist do your best to make sure all 3 joints are bending.
- That’s it! Do these exercises as often as you need to throughout your recovery. Don’t let your fingers get stiff because it will be so hard to get them loosened up. Unfortunately, if you don’t, a painful surgery to ‘release’ them may be needed. So, don’t let that happen to you!
- To help you get started watch my video here on 5 gentle and safe exercises in a wrist cast. You do the exercises at the same time.
What can you do if these exercises aren’t enough?
We understand how important your fingers are with daily activities. If you are experiencing stiffness of your fingers from a wrist injury or fracture, a Virtual Hand Care Specialist can help you regain your motion back quickly.
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