Your hands perform countless tasks every day — from pouring coffee, brushing teeth, and buttoning shirts to raking leaves or computer work.

There are many ways — including medications and surgery — to get hands back to work. One of the most important ways is through therapeutic exercises.

The following exercises help increase a joint's range of motion, while strengthening muscles around the joint. If you have a serious hand, wrist, or arm injury, consult your doctor before leaping into the routines below. All exercises should be done slowly and deliberately, to avoid pain and injury. If you feel numbness or pain during or after exercising, stop and consult a therapist.

Stretching exercises

Stretching helps lengthen muscles and tendons. Some repetitive tasks, such as typing on a computer or gripping gardening tools, can shorten muscles and leave them tight and painful. Do these stretches gently, until you feel the stretch, but without pain. Hold the positions for a count of 15 to 30 seconds to get the most benefit. These exercises are particularly helpful for tendinitis and tight forearm muscles, which are common in people who do a lot of computer work.

For each of these exercises, do a set of four repetitions, twice a day. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds between each repetition.

Wrist extensor stretches

  1. Hold one hand at chest level with the elbow bent. 
  2. With the other hand, grasp the thumb side of the hand and bend your wrist downward.
  3. To increase the stretch, bend your wrist toward your little finger.
  4. Repeat the same exercise with a straight arm.
  5. Switch hands and repeat.

Wrist flexor stretches

  1. Hold one hand at chest level with the elbow bent.
  2. Grasp the fingers of that hand with the other.
  3. Pull the hand back gently.
  4. Repeat the same exercise with a straight arm.
  5. Switch hands and repeat.

Resisted isometrics

These exercises work muscles against resistance. Hold each position for 10 seconds. Complete one set of 10 repetitions once or twice a day.

Isometric wrist extension

  1. Hold one hand palm down on a table or other surface. Put your other hand on top of it.
  2. Try to raise the lower hand, but don't allow it to move.
  3. Switch hands and repeat.

Isometric wrist flexion
Follow the same steps as above, but with your palm facing up.

Source: Harvard Medical School, http://www.health.harvard.edu.