Background Hand function measured as grip force and finger extension force is often impaired in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and hand osteoarthritis (HOA) affecting performance of daily activities why hand exercises are recommended. A number of hand exercises are often used in the clinic but there is little information about “the effects of a minimal set of hand exercises” and if the choice of exercises is important to improve strength and function in the hand.
Objectives To study the effect on grip- and finger extension strength and patient reported hand function from two different sets of handexercises performed over 8 weeks using a randomized study design.
Methods Female patients with arthritis (RA and HOA, n=121) were randomly assigned to two different sets of handexercises (HE) for 8 weeks. The four hand exercises applied in the program were exercises commonly used in traditional hand training programs. The exercises were split into two groups depending on if the muscle activation (measured with EMG) were greater in forearm flexor (HE I, n=62) or in extensor muscles (HE II, n=59) (REF). HE I: isolated finger opposition (digits II-V) and rolling the putty with a flat hand, HE II: squeezing the putty and finger extension with putty resistance. The two HE were performed daily and each set was repeated 15 times, training time per day was maximum 5 minutes 7 days/week.
Grip strength was measured with Grippit and finger extension strength with EX-it both validated instruments (unit: N). Pain was measured with a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), 0-10 (best to worst). Hand functions were evaluated with the patient reported questionnaire Quick Disability Arm Shoulder and Hand (QuickDASH), 0-100 (best to worst).
Results Mean grip strength (p=0.01) and mean finger extension force (p=0.004) increased after the training period in the group using HE I. In HE II the mean finger extension force increased (p=0.044), table 1. Hand function was stable over the training period.
Conclusions Five daily minutes with two hand exercises resulted increased grip strength and finger extension force after eight weeks. We suggest that hand exercises should be combined and selected to improve both flexor and extensor muscle strength of the forearm.
Disclosure of Interest None declared