Healthy Tahoe: Rest for weary hands |

Healthy Tahoe: Rest for weary hands

Katie Irvin, MS, OTR/L, CHT

Winter home maintenance and everyday tasks ask a lot of your hands. Some may experience tired and painful forearms, locking fingers, and sore wrists. As things start to warm up, it’s time to give our weary hands a rest.

Here are some practices to address finger stiffness and the effects of repetitive tasks of the winter months.

A time for rest and relaxation. Start with self-massage. Begin by resting your hand, palm up, on a surface with a towel underneath for cushion. Make small, gentle circular movements using your other hand’s index and middle fingers on your wrist. Perform at least 10 circular movements. Move onto your palm, massaging in a circular motion. Next, massage the base of your thumb, where you’ll find a bundle of thumb muscles that can sometimes be tender to the touch. Cover this area with small circular motions, then move to the creases of your thumb. Gently press your fingertips in a sweeping motion from the crease of the wrist to the edge of your thumb. Circle 10 times and then perform 10 sweeps along the inner arch of the thumb.

Continuing on, perform at least 10 sweeping motions along the creases of your palm, gently sweeping from your index, or pointer, finger side to the pinky side. Finally, gently flex your fingers to make a fist, then open your hand as wide as you can comfortably. Repeat five times. You may notice an increase in warmth and perhaps some joint relaxation and reduction in pain. Repeat on the other hand.

Spotlight on the thumb. The importance of using good body mechanics and joint protection strategies for the hand and thumb is paramount in keeping strong hands that we can count on to open jars, manipulate small items, and utilize a stronger grip when completing snow removal or other maintenance duties. Treat your thumb like your back — protect it and keep it strong and mobile.

To maintain healthy thumbs, consider daily adjustments that promote good thumb positioning. When opening bottles with small caps, position your thumb in the shape of a “C” or “O” arch instead of letting your thumb cave in at the base. This positioning should be utilized in all daily movements, and can be supported by adjustments such as using wide grip pens when possible, securing a dog leash with a large clip – such as a carabiner – that is easy to operate, and adding zipper pulls to jackets and bags.

Utilizing good joint protection techniques and practicing self hand massage can be a helpful way to rest and rejuvenate the hands. Once rested, your hands will be ready to grip again, allowing participation in valued activities like gardening, bike riding, and using poles for hiking. 

April is Occupational Therapy Month. Katie Irvin, MS, OTR/L, CHT is an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist with Barton Rehabilitation Services, offering comprehensive occupational therapy services for adult and pediatric patients, including hand therapy, lymphedema therapy, neurological treatments, and driving simulation with recommendations utilizing the STISIM Drive. A referral from a physician is required to receive Occupational Therapy services. For more information, visit

Katie Irvin

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