Does your thumb stiffness make you feel like your thumb just doesn’t belong to you?

You keep telling it to move but it feels like concrete and just won’t budge! 

Maybe you are recovering from a thumb fracture, injury, have arthritis, or perhaps you had a thumb surgery. Regardless, it is amazing how quickly thumb stiffness can settle in. 

And I bet you’ve never realized just how important of a role your thumb plays on your daily function.

Your thumb is half your hand function!

Luckily, there are exercises and stretches that can help. But these aren’t just any exercises. In my opinion, they are the best 5 thumb exercises for thumb stiffness out there. 

I’ve helped a few thousand thumbs over the past 17 years and I’m just sayin’, give these a go if you’ve lost some of your thumb mobility. 

Once you begin, you may notice these thumb exercises progress from easy to hard. If you are like most people, you’ll want to dive right into the hardest exercise to move your thumb. 

But hang on before you do that!

Just like the larger joints of your body…

you need to warm up the smaller thumb joints. 

Sort of like when you’re going for a run. You usually warm up by starting slow, maybe stretching a little. You want to do the same thing for the other little joints in your body. 

So start with lighter exercises then build onto those with the harder exercises for thumb stiffness.

Enough already, let’s move!

 

Thumb Stiffness Exercise #1: Active Thumb IP Flexion and Extension

First, rest your hand down on a table, or prop your hand on a towel, whatever is comfortable for you. 

This exercise isolates just the tip of the thumb IP joint, known as your interphalangeal joint. First, you want to use your other hand to gently pinch right below the IP joint. This will allow only the tip of your thumb to move.  

bend tip of the thumb

Next, actively bend the tip of the thumb as shown. Make sure you bend as far as you can and then straighten all the way too. 

Rest and repeat as needed.

Thumb Stiffness Exercise #2: Thumb Tip to Tip

With this exercise, you are going to touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of each finger. If your thumb is very stiff and you can’t touch each fingertip then just do what you can. 

Start by touching the tip of the index finger to the tip of your thumb. The key to this exercise is to try to make a perfect ‘O’ with your thumb and fingers. 

By making an ‘O’ you are opening up the thumb web space. Plus you are moving the thumb away from your palm, and contracting several thumb muscles that assist with your thumb mobility and stability. 

Touch tip of thumb to tip of index finger

After you make an ‘O’ with your index and thumb, you want to open the fingers and thumb all the way.  By straightening the thumb and fingers, you will get a little more mobility. 

Now you want to do the same thing to the middle finger. Again working on making an ‘O’ with your middle finger and thumb. Then do the same to the ring finger and the small finger. 

It may get harder for you with each finger but do not strain your thumb. This should be a pain free exercise. 

Rest and repeat as needed.

 

CLICK HERE to download 10 full pages of these exercises with detailed instruction, dosage, colored pictures, and more!

Thumb Stiffness Exercise #3: Thumb ‘C’ Exercise

Now let’s try some light strengthening in the midst of these mobility exercises.

I like to call this the ‘C’ exercise because…well…you are making a ‘C’ with your fingers and thumb. But what you are actually doing is strengthening your thumb abductor muscles.

Simply move your thumb away from your palm and lightly curl your fingers making the ‘C’ shape. However, when you do this exercise you want to lightly contract your fingers and thumb into that position. Hold for 3 seconds then relax.

Thumb C exercise to strength thumb muscles

You should see the muscles on the palm side of your thumb plump up when you move your thumb away from your palm. 

This exercise can help improve your ability to perform activities such as holding a can, bottle, or any larger object. 

Repeat as needed.

You may feel like you got a little workout with that one! 

Thumb Stiffness Exercise #4: Active Thumb Flexion and Extension

By now your thumb should feel nice and loose!

If not, we still have 2 more exercises to go.

With this exercise, bring your thumb across your palm to touch the base of your small finger. If you cannot go that far just do what you can. 

Active thumb flexion across palm exercise

Keep in mind when you’re doing this exercise, you want your fingers to be nice and relaxed. Don’t feel like your fingers have to stay all the way straight because that can cause some strain into the arm. 

Actively bend your thumb all the way across your palm. Hold 3 seconds then open all the way. 

Continue with this exercise 2 times a day or as needed to reduce your thumb stiffness.

Thumb Stiffness Exercise #5: Passive Thumb Flexion

Finally, we will end these exercises with a light thumb stretch. If you find you’ve been doing all these exercises and you just aren’t feeling an improvement in your mobility then stretching may help.

This one is similar to exercise #4. Simply use your other hand to help bend your thumb across your palm. 

Passive Thumb flexion and extension exercise

You want to make sure you are stretching and bending at both joints of your thumb. Make sure you are not pushing too hard. Just gently guide your stiff thumb across your palm, hold 3 seconds then relax. 

You can either rest your thumb or lightly stretch it out into extension. Then repeat the passive thumb flexion motion 2 times day or as needed.

 

Conclusion

By now, your thumb should feel warmed up, more flexible, and less stiff.  

Remember, none of these movements should cause any pain. Pushing too hard can be counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve.

All of these 5 thumb exercises for thumb stiffness should only take you about 5 minutes, or less, a day. However, you may need to do these for several weeks, or even months as long as stiffness persists. 

 

Wish you had these exercises on a printable worksheet you can take anywhere?

Well, it’s your lucky day! 

You can download your very own 10 page worksheet full of these exercises, with detailed instruction, dosage, tips on how to make the exercises comfortable, and video links to the exercises. Click here to get it here for only $4.99!

Thumb Stiffness Worksheet Sample

One last thing, if you found this post helpful do share this with family and friends that use their hands a lot. Help them work through their thumb stiffness with these simple, yet effective thumb stiffness exercises. 

If you like these exercises but are looking for more ways to improve your thumb range of motion. Then try more of my thumb videos here!