Exercising My Arthritic Hands with Sticker Art
Last updated: November 2022
A study in Arthritis Care and Research looked at and monitored the hand grip strength of individuals in the early stages of their RA.
The study reports, “There was an improvement in grip strength in the first year, with further improvement in age-corrected grip strength up to 5 years after diagnosis. Still, impaired grip strength was observed 5 years after diagnosis, even in patients who were in clinical remission, and among those with limited self-reported pain or disability.”1
Hand movement and strength with RA
This particular study got me thinking about how important it is to keep my hands as active as possible. I have lived with RA for over 18 years now and have noticed a decline in my hand grip strength.
The study revealed there was a substantial decline in the hand grip strength of participants. RA causes impairment throughout our bodies and can be merciless at times. This study reinforced to me the importance of moving our extremities daily.
The struggle to move is real
I know it is essential to move my hands. However, many days, I play a game of mental gymnastics with myself. It takes everything I have to gingerly move my fingers through that debilitating stiffness, swelling, and pain. Through the years, I have learned various therapeutic range of motion and hand strengthening exercises to help maintain my hands.
If I am being 100% transparent, I do not personally enjoy these exercises. This is an interesting factoid because I spent most of my life in a career as an occupational therapist. So, I truly have studied and read the research on the importance of performing exercises. I’ve seen first-hand and have benefited from the engagement of hand exercises. Then what is my problem and hang up with them?
My grip strength is declining
Living with a chronic condition like RA, life can be very unpredictable. When it happens, it is easy for me to feel like life is out of control. I do not have a choice of when the disease decides to cause havoc in my body. It happens at any hour of the day or night. Through the years, despite how much I work on preserving my hand movement and strength, there has been a noticeable decline in my grip strength. I drop items like it is an Olympic sport.
I don’t enjoy typical hand exercises
Performing exercises is not always enjoyable for me, so the thought of whipping out my extensive collection of hand exercises during periods of flares is not appealing. Through the years, I have found that the key is to disguise my exercises through an activity. These activities bring me joy while helping me work through the stiffness, pain, and decreased range of motion brought on by the disease.
Strengthening my hands through sticker art
Over the last 2 months, I have found an activity that takes me back to the blissful times during my childhood. I would sit for hours and play with a toy known as Colorforms. Each box had a scene and various reusable cling stickers that you could reposition to create a new scene variation each time. This activity gets you to use the small muscles in your hands.
I am happy to report that I have found an adult version of my childhood reusable sticker art favorite. I purchased these spiral-bound, lightweight “Sticker and Chill Books” with various scenes and reusable stickers on Amazon. The reusable stickers come in varying sizes and shapes. I love doing this activity; it is a great workout for my hands. Plus, mentally, it helps to calm me and brings me comfort on those challenging days. I hope everyone out there reading this has an activity that helps to maintain their range of motion in their hands while being good for the soul at the same time.
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