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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This is so great to know! I am noticing a slight and mild case with my husband and an extremely flexed index finger. I was not aware that certain exercises can help with this. I will regularly encourage him to do the deep finger stretch to promote extension. Thank you for posting!
I didn’t realize that Dupuytren’s Contracture is generally found in men of Nordic descent. My grandfather has a strong Nordic ancestry in his family, and he has recently been having difficulties with his hands. Perhaps it would be best for him to visit a professional to see if he is developing Dupuytren’s Contracture. https://www.dupuytrensdiseasesupportgroup.com/
My Scandinavian great grandfather suffered from Dupuytren’s as well.
The first thing I thought was “This is so fascinating!” which is exactly what others have said. I’ve seen this in people but never knew what it was called, or what population it is prominent in. Thank you for shedding light on something I hadn’t questioned previously.
Fascinating and sad, thanks for this informative post. It’s difficult enough to stave off the effects of our heavy hand and wrist use with our culture’s immersion in the digital age of smart devices and computers, then you have aging’s knock on effects, and in a worst case the added impact of a debilitating disease. We do have to protect and “armor” the tissues of our hands, wrists, and arms against this daily weathering assault. From targeted stretches and strengthening exercises found in YTU or other modalities, to the use of YTU’s Therapy balls, so much can be done to hopefully slow, stalemate, or reverse these negative effects…we just need to keep getting the word out!
Thanks for the information Christine! There is arthritis on both sides of my family and this effects the fingers and hands as well. It is astounding how fingers can be completely deformed or out of commission within a relatively short amount of time. I would like to believe everything is curable! The YTU exercises provided for the hands and wrists are a fantastic starting point for everyone to keep things circulating and fluid (as much as possible) in that area. You know the ol’ saying “If you don’t use it you’ll lose it!”
My friend seems to have the same problem of having his hands curl up in a perpetual flexion (perhaps the beginning stages of Dupuytren’s Contracture). I will suggest he try the exercises prescribed. Could the contractions in the ligaments that cause the palm to curl be from tightness higher up the arm? It seems like they might be related!
Wow, thank you for reminding us about the importance of being able to flatten our hands, I have to agree that I take it or granted, Even Anjali Mudra that we use so much in yoga? Now I will be mindful and learn how o integrate ” extension” exercises.
The hands, wrists, and forearms are an area I never think to spend much time on even though it is the part of my body that gets the majority of use on any given day – the use of a mouse, keyboard, and cell phone absolutely has to be taking it’s toll. Even though I love these stretches when they come up during my practice, I never think to do them on my own. Knowing how bad constant flexion of the fingers is for you, I will make an effort to work those areas outside of the studio as well.
Wow, this is fascinating. I am strength coach so we do a LOT of grip training. The flexors get extremely overworked. So I periodically use little rubber bands to do extension exercises. I also do lots of exercises like this which are partially inspired by Glenn Black for myself and my athletes: http://www.forcedistancetime.com/2011/07/21/forearm-blast/
Dear Christine, Thank you for putting this post on line – my husband is in the beggining stage of ‘trigger finger’ with a hard little bump along his tenton in the palm – his Docter suggested that he rub vitamine e into his hand and to eventually prepare for surgery. The surgery is similar to a carpaltunnel surgery. Recently I have introduced him to the yoga tune up dvd’s and he likes how practical and real world they are – me too. However I will certainly show him your extention streches.
We all tend to take for granted the comfort of movement until we are no longer pain free or an injury occurs. As you say in your “bio”, each time you felt discomfort or an injury caught up to you – that was the time to find a remedy, luckily pushing you into the field you are in. As practitioners in the health and wellness field, if we can educate willing clients before the discomfort all the better. One of my Zumba participants last year described a surgery she was having was as a result of “trigger finger”, so I’m glad to have come across your article as I didn’t know much about it or Dupuytren’s Contracture. I may inquire a little more out of this client for the sake of interest and what the medical profession may have suggested prior to engaging in the surgical procedure. This participant does report having a large majority of her mobility back – almost one year later. I can now address some specifically directed stretches for her that the entire class will benefit from.
Thanks Christine. I always find your articles very informative. I have watched the quick fixes by Jill. They are so effective. Yoga Tune up has given us access to practical solutions to our problems with scientific explanations. I thank the moment when I decided to do this training. It was a blessed moment. Recently, one of my private clients shared her concern of elbow sensitivity. I taught her these movements and wow, her concern got melted.