You've probably found that your medications are helpful to control the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, and, your doctor may report that they're slowing the progression of your disease. This is all good news.

But what about the loss of mobility and function you experience, the difficulty of opening a jar or writing a note? These are important too.

Exercises to stretch and strengthen hands can keep them more mobile and functional. What Is Osteoarthritis?

Researchers wanted to see if hand exercises could make a difference. They conducted a study that included over 450 people who had rheumatoid arthritis and symptoms of pain and dysfunction in their hands.1

Half of the study participants were given a tailored program for hand stretching and strengthening, administered by physical therapists and occupational therapists. After 12 months, this group had a significant improvement in overall hand function, compared with the group that received no special treatment.


The study authors are working on creating a publicly available exercise program based on the one they used for the study. In the meantime, people with rheumatoid arthritis can work with their therapist to create their own regimen of stretching and strengthening exercises that is customized for their situation.

If you have arthritis in your shoulders or knees, check out our guides to strengthening stretches for these joints:

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  1. "Exercises to improve function of the rheumatoid hand (SARAH): a randomised controlled trial." Lancet. 2014 Oct 9. [Epub ahead of print]