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A stretching lion at Ouwehands Dierenpark.

A stretching lion at Ouwehands Dierenpark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Inspired by my friend Louise

A friend asked the other day how she could stretch her fingers following an automobile accident which put her hand in a splint for several weeks.  She has lost the span needed to play Beethoven on the piano. Since she plays for her own enjoyment, ways to maintain flexibility and range were something she needed to check out.  Her first thought was, “I’ll never be able to play again!”

Most people are familiar with large muscle stretches for sports, for example.  Hand stretches might be a little different.This is what I told her.  Perhaps something in this post will be helpful to you or someone you know, as well.

To stretch your fingers ~ yes, you can do that.  But you have to be careful.  The hand injury specialist who treated me said to stretch to about 80% of your max.  Small structures can’t be over-stressed, because they can be permanently injured.

With one hand cupped (imagine holding a tennis ball), turn your hand palm-side down, level w/the floor.  Support your upper arm and elbow against your body.  No gripping! You are not holding the ball, just imagining the shape.

With your opposite hand, gently stretch one finger at a time, keeping finger curved when stretching back, away from finger tips, toward back of palm.  (So your middle joint aims for the ceiling, fingernail ends up near 3rd joint.)

Next, stretch the same finger down to palm, so fingernail almost touches inside of wrist. Straighten finger, keeping it relaxed. Now stretch the same finger, using your opposite hand, to the left and then right.Stretching in all directions is important to maintain the balance in length of the tendons. Each stretch can be repeated, gently, 2 or 3 times in one session.  You could do a couple of sessions each day.

You can soak your hands in hot water for a few minutes On a cold day or in a cold room, avoid going into stretches with cold hands. And, for instance, you wouldn’t want to stretch in front of a cold blast of air from an air-conditioner, or in front of a fan.

Don’t expect instant progress… you haven’t been using your hand for a while.

Stretching both hands adds a 15% benefit!

Don’t overdo it or go too fast out of frustration.  That’s the hard part for me.  Robert Schumann, the composer, became frustrated that his 4th fingers wouldn’t lift off the keyboard as far as 2, 3, and 5.  He built a wooden machine to stretch his 4th fingers, and ruined his hands for life.

When you have finished stretching, take a break.  Any strenuous activity with your hands needs to begin no sooner than 10 minutes later.

While you are regaining your flexiblity, go ahead and play your instrument!  You can leave things out. Playing something is so much more fun than not playing at all and becoming worried that you won’t be able to.  Given a little time, your flexibility will return.  It takes attention to the situation and caring for your hands where they are right now, today.

Surgeons play finger games to maintain flnger flexibility.  So, while playing an instrument may seem like a niche activity, maintaining flexibility is also applicable to other professions.

Hope this helps!

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