Our hands are fundamental tools. Before we even think about it, our hands are busy putting on clothes, picking up kettles, opening drawers. Twisting, pulling, grasping, and turning can help build strength for our fine, dexterous hand structures. But just like warming up before a whole-body workout, warming up our hands before taking on tasks can help to prevent pain and injury.
Anatomy and Function of Hand Structures
Our hands are incredible dexterous tools consisting of the wrist, palm, and fingers. Each hand has 27 bones which articulate with 27 corresponding joints. Over 100 tendons and ligaments act as pulleys and levers that are manipulated in copious ingenious movements by the 34 muscles found in each hand. A vast network of blood vessels supplies oxygen and nutrients to the nerves, bones, and soft tissues of the hand. The nerves, our body’s communication system, deliver signals that enable hand movement while simultaneously sensing touch, pain, and temperature.
Hand Health and Dexterity
The complex nature of our hands’ anatomy allows us to achieve a huge array of skills, from playing piano to driving race cars. From building machines to operating them, the importance of our incredible hand function may be considered what makes us humans the advanced species we have become. Interestingly, well-functioning hands are associated with healthier aging. Strong executive functions including working memory, self-control, and flexible thinking have been shown to improve with healthy hands and fingers.
Why Function is Improved with A Warmup
When we prepare our bodies for exercise, it is always a good idea to warm up first. This helps us prepare mentally and physically before strenuous activities. On a smaller scale, warming up our muscles and joints of our hands helps to improve comfortable and efficient movement. Warming up improves blood flow. With better blood flow, more oxygen and nutrients reach the muscles of our hands and forearms. Range of motion and flexibility is increased as well, making movement easier and more stable.
Load Bearing and Flexibility with Ease
As the idea implies, warming up our hands before tasks increases blood flow and raises the temperature of our busy hand structures. Being warmed up, our muscles are less stiff and have more flexibility. This reduces the risk of getting injured as the muscles are engaged to handle the strain of load bearing activities. They are less likely to endure pain and muscle soreness. And they are more likely to protect joints and keep them in alignment, further lowering the risk of hand injuries.
Hand Warm-Up Exercises Overview
Hand warm-up exercise can be soothing and gentle. Passively warming up the hands is a wonderful start. Use a heated towel, heating pad, or soak your hands in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes to raise the temperature and blood flow of the intricate hand structures. Not only will this warm up your hands and prepare them for duty, but it also helps to alleviate pain and stiffness.
Less passive but similarly gentle exercise and stretches can be incorporated into a hand warm-up routine. There are tools and exercise equipment such as rollers, bars, and bands to help gently warm up delicate hand structures. Massage is another wonderful way to warm up hands in a gentle soothing way that will also help improve blood flow while easing pain and stiffness.
Benefits of Warming Up Hands Before Work and Play
Prevent Injury, Sprains, and Strains
Warming up our hand structures before they become busy, whether doing strengthening exercise, day-to-day tasks, or our favourite hobby, improves blood flow to our muscles. This means our muscles will be less likely to tear or strain. When our hands are warmed up before tasks, the joints are loose and ready for work. This reduces their risk of injury and sprain.
Reduce Symptoms of Pain and Stiffness
A gentle warm up of the delicate hand structures improves blood flow. It is very helpful for our muscles because blood carries the necessary oxygen our muscles need to function. Warmth reduces joint stiffness and decreases muscles spasm which is supportive for tight muscles. It also helps our hands recover faster after exercising.
Improve Loadbearing Capacity, Strength, and Endurance
Not only does warming up our busy hands improve blood flow, but also oxygen is released from our blood to our muscles more easily at higher temperatures. This is the perfect situation since our muscles require more oxygen when exercising, making warming up even more important. Moreover, the warmer temperatures enhance nerve transmission and muscle metabolism. This helps to improve loadbearing capacity, strength, and endurance because our hands can then perform faster and more efficiently.
Increase Flexibility for Greater Productivity
Warming up in gentle ways that increase blood flow to our muscles also helps to loosen the joints of our hands. Not only is warming up soothing on our stiff joints and muscles, but it also allows our hands more flexibility. This helps prepare our fine hand structures for the physical demands of our day-to-day tasks. Resulting in enhanced endurance, our hands can work or play for longer periods of time which increases our productivity and our enjoyment simultaneously.
Develop Fine Motor Skills to Promote Accuracy and Precision
Taking on tasks that require fine motor skills, the use of our small muscles in our hands, like typing, crafting, or gaming are always worth developing. When our hands are warmed up before activities that put stress on our hands, the small muscles can perform more efficiently. This is because our warmed muscles can contract and relax faster which promotes accuracy and precision. The benefit is we develop our fine motor skills which in turn improves our skill, technique, and coordination of our endeavours.
Secret Side-Effect of Easing Stress and Anxiety
Perhaps it is the effect of mindful warming up of the hands before taking on activities. Interestingly, studies have shown that not only does warming up the hands reduce pain and contribute to better hand function, but it also has shown to reduce stress. Specifically, a study from 2011 showed that hand massage once a day for four weeks improved grip strength and decreased pain. The secret side effect showed lower scores on anxiety, depressed mood, and sleep disturbance as additional benefits to hand massage.
The Warmup and The Cool Down
Daily Hand Warmups for an Effective Routine
Our hands are often busy before we even realise it. From first thing in the morning to the last thing at night our industrious hands are holding, twisting, pulling, and gripping. Allowing for a gentle warmup and cooling down before and after larger tasks is one way to show our appreciation for our hardworking hands. It will be rewarding with less injury and strain in addition to the added benefits of reduced pain as well as less stress.
As with any addition to our daily list of tasks, adding exercise or a warmup program needs a little planning and discipline. The Hand Specialists and Therapists at CHARMS will have excellent advice to help you get started in a way that will work for your personalised situation.
Useful Equipment for Hand Warmups, Stretches, and Massage
Like any exercise program, there are useful tools and equipment that can help get us started and keep us going. One option is to purchase a hand massaging device. There are several styles available. Some focus on stiffness, arthritis, or other hand conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. They may use heat, vibration, interact with pressure points, or use a combination of methods.
At CHARMS, our Hand Specialists and Therapist will have advice and options to purchase warmup equipment such as rollers, hot and cold therapeutic tools, twisty bars, and therapy bands. Ask us about which options would be suitable for you and your hand therapy needs.
Warm Up, Stretch, and Massage
Hand Warm Up Exercises
1. Finger Separation
- Open your hands to a flat position with fingers together.
- Slowly abduct or separate fingers as wide as is comfortable.
- Return fingers to starting position of fingers together.
- Repeat five times.
2. Palms Up, Palms Down
- Standing or sitting, have elbows bent to 90 degrees.
- Face palms upward.
- Turn palms downward as far as is comfortable.
- Return palms upward.
- Repeat five times.
3. Wrist Rollers
- Open your hand with fingers extended and palms facing upward.
- Roll your wrists three times in an outward direction.
- Roll your wrists three times in an inward direction.
- Repeat three times.
Hand Stretching Exercises
1. Palms Together
- Sit with palms together in front of your chest.
- Slowly lower your palms until you feel a stretch in your wrist.
- Keeping your palms together hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Relax. Repeat three times.
2. Wrist Stretch
- Extend arms out in front of you at shoulder height.
- With palms down, bend hand at the wrist downwards.
- Hold 10 to 30 seconds.
- Keeping palms down, bend at the wrist and lift hand upwards, fingers pointing to the ceiling.
- Hold 10 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat two to three times.
3. Windshield Wiper Hands
- Place hands palms down on a table.
- Keep hands on the table, slide hands to one side, bending sideways at the wrist.
- Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds.
- Repeat, sliding hands to the other side.
- Repeat three times for each side.
Perform hand massaging techniques with or without oil or lotion. Massage hands as a beginning, end, or both to warming up and exercising. Use your opposite hand, fingers, thumb, and palm to massage web spaces, fingers, joints, knuckles, muscles of the palm and thumb. Our Hand Specialists and Therapists at Charms can teach you personalised hand massage techniques perfect for you.
How CHARMS Can Help
The Hand Care Team at CHARMS and their dedicated Hand Therapists are here to help. The caring and efficient team will recommend a warmup and exercise routine personalised to you. Their knowledge and experience can help you maintain optimum hand function, so your busy hands are pain and injury free.