Muscles all over the body have the potential to become stiff and restricted from daily activities. When I evaluate a patient for the first time, I often ask them which of their muscles feel chronically tight. The most common replies are the hamstrings and the muscles of the neck.
Even though we use our hands all day with typing, texting, using a mouse, and countless other activities, the muscles of the hand are often ignored in respect to stretching and maintenance.
Here is a prime example of muscle stiffness in the hand that goes untreated. Can you make an “open fist” like in the photo to the right? Notice that with ideal range, the pads of the fingers are touching the topmost part of the palm while the first knuckles stay totally straight. Think of keeping your hand open so that you could strike something with the palm of your hand.
If the “intrinsic” muscles of the hand become stiff or tight, the finger pads will not touch the palm, or the hand will close in to more of a “closed fist” position. If you find that you do not have full range in this position, it may be a good idea to start gently stretching your hands. You can easily work on all of the fingers at the same time (as shown in the first photo), or you can focus on individual fingers as shown in the following video.
As a guideline to stretching, sharp pain in one finger is an indication that something else might be wrong. For instance, if one of your fingers does not move into the stretch position while the other fingers do, it may be possible that one of the knuckles in the finger may be jammed or otherwise traumatized. In these cases it is wise to see a doctor who specializes in hand injuries who can isolate the problem.