We mouse, we drive, we hold things. We take for granted our ability to flatten our hands together in Anjali Mudra. Yet our fingers live in a chronic state of flexion—even at rest they curl in toward the palm. And for some this curling is exacerbated by a disease called Dupuytren’s Contracture.
In Dupuytren’s Contracture, palm tissue thickens and, like a vine, weaves itself into and around the muscles and ligaments of the pinkie and ring fingers (sometimes this affects the index finger and is mis-diagnosed as trigger finger). As the disease progresses, it pulls the affected fingers into deep flexion and renders extension absolutely impossible. As you might image, this condition makes many activities awkward: typing, playing basketball, holding your significant other’s hand.
While painless and incurable, the cause of Dupuytren’s Contracture is unknown. It is generally found in men of Nordic descent. It is also personal for me. All the men in my husband’s family have it and my husband has detected its early signs. My father-in-law and brother-in-law have undergone painful surgeries and rehabilitation only to discover the disease recurring a few months later.
Mild cases (and presumably early cases) may be helped with regular finger stretching to promote extension. Although far from a double-blind scientific study, I have charged my husband with doing the following YTU forearm extension exercise (ostensibly a wrist opener, but also a deep finger stretch) whenever he notices his pinkie and ring fingers commencing their notorious palm-ward curl. So far, the Dupuytren’s Contracture exercises and stretches are helping his fingers straighten and stay in extension for noticeable periods of time. Hopefully he can stretch his luck until someone finds a cure. If you have a client who has Dupuytren’s, give this exercise a try (and find more Hand based exercises here).
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