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5 Tendon Gliding Exercises for Improved Movement

By Apricus Health

18th February 2022

Tendon gliding exercises play an essential role in preventing and reducing tendon adhesions after hand surgery or an injury.

Adhesions are formed when the body starts to heal; scar tissue adheres two surfaces together that aren't naturally meant to join.

Tendon gliding exercises are designed to help the tendons in your hand and wrist to slide smoothly alongside each other when they are in use. It's crucial to start hand tendon gliding rehab, under the guidance of a hand therapist, as soon as possible after surgery or an injury has healed, as tendons have a low blood supply and slow healing time.

Apricus Health is the leading provider of hand therapy in North Queensland with over 20 years of experience diagnosing, treating, and managing complex hand injuries requiring post-surgical rehabilitation. We're a passionate team of physiotherapists and occupational therapists dedicated to restoring complete hand health.

This article outlines the four basic hand gliding exercises required to reduce sensory irritation and regain full range of motion in the hand and wrist during rehabilitation.

Tendon Gliding Exercises to Regain Full Hand Motion

The exercises listed below combine strengthening and stretching movements that help the tendons in your hand and wrist become stronger and more flexible. A combination of strength and flexibility is key to preventing re-injury and will help break up adhesions. 

While these exercises feel quite gentle when you're performing them, they allow each tendon to achieve the most amount of movement possible. The exercises will reduce swelling and restore the all-important blood flow required for healing to occur. 

5 Easy Tendon Gliding Exercises

The exercises can be done individually or as a sequence progressing from the open palm position to the full fist position. Under the guidance of your hand therapist, perform each exercise 2 - 5 times each day, with 5-10 repetitions each time. 

  1. Open Palm 

Imagine your hand is flat against a wall or that you're motioning for someone to stop. Start with your palm and fingers all aligned in a straight line. Return to this position after you perform each of the below exercises. Hold for 2-3 seconds to reset before moving on to the next exercise. 

  1. Hook 

From the open palm position, slowly curl your fingers down to create a hook shape while keeping your knuckles in the straight position. Your fingertips should be touching the pads at the base of your fingers, and you should feel a stretching sensation in your fingers and wrist.

  1. Tabletop

From the open palm position, bend your fingers down in a straight line to create a tabletop or L shape. Only the joints where your fingers meet your palm should work in this exercise. Keep your knuckles pointing upwards, and let your thumb relax.

  1. Half Fist

In the half fist position, you'll only be using your knuckles and first finger joints. Bend both the knuckle and middle finger joints so that your fingers are resting on the base of your palm. Keep your fingers straight.

  1. Full Fist

From the open-palm position, slowly engage all your fingers, thumb, and joints to create a fist and squeeze gently. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds and then return to the straight position and begin the sequence again.

Tendon Gliding Exercises & Occupational Therapy 

Occupational therapy for hand tendon gliding rehabilitation aims to reduce or eliminate symptoms and restore the full range of motion to the wrist joint and hand. The exercises listed above are an effective part of treatment for hand rehabilitation; however, full recovery can only be achieved by combining the above exercises with other therapies, depending on the nature of the original injury.

An accredited occupational therapist or hand physiotherapist can administer a whole range of treatments, including low-level laser therapy, manual therapy, splint treatment, and more. A full recovery can usually be achieved using conservative, non-surgical therapies to reduce pain and sensory disturbances (like tingling, numbness, and pins and needles) and restore full grip strength, pinch strength, and a normal range of motion. 

At Apricus Health, our team are client-focused and committed to providing the best possible hand therapy at all times. We approach each client as an individual, creating individual treatment plans that take into consideration a person's individual circumstances, abilities, and goals.

We're proud to provide the leading holistic allied health services for residents of North Queensland. We have a network of 6 completely equipped locations across Townsville, Ingham, Ayr and Charters Towers as well as an extensive outreach program offering home visits and Telehealth consultations. Contact us online or use the online booking system to make an appointment today!