As a massage therapist, my hands can get achy, but many other professions lend themselves to over use of the hands as well. Mechanics, secretaries, horticulturalists, and crafters are just a few examples.
So here are a few tips to help those tired achy hands after a long day!
1) Contrast Bath: If you have double sinks, fill one sink with comfortably warm water - think bath temperature. Fill the other sink with cold water. You can even add some ice and make it nice and cold. Plunge your hands into the warm sink for 3 minutes. Lift out, and immediately move them into the cold water sink for 30 seconds. Then lift out and back into the warm for 3 minutes. Repeat up to three times, ending in the cold. Your hands will feel alive and invigorated!
2) Paraffin Bath: This is great for achy arthritic finger joints. You can find paraffin bath treatments at many dayspas, or purchase a unit for personal use at major drug stores. The paraffin heats deep into the tissues, providing soothing relief, and leaving hands soft and silky.
3) Self massage: My favorite tool for self massage of the hands and fingers is an eraser. You can dig into the muscles without tiring out an already tired thumb! Just hold the eraser in the opposite hand, place the tip into the palm of your hand and press down. It feels especially good in the big thumb muscles (known as the thenar eminence). You can also roll a tennis ball around in the palm of your hand, adding pressure either with your other hand, or by rolling the ball on a hard surface using the palm that you are massaging.
4) Strength Training: Strengthening finger and forearm muscles may help prevent over use injuries, as a stronger muscle is more tolerant to strain and over use. This is best done when your hands are feeling good, however, as you don't want to overwork an already tired tissue. Grip strength tools or stress balls that you squeeze are great for training. Water exercises like swimming and aerobics help strengthen your wrists and fingers as well due to the resistance of pulling them through the water.
5) Stretching: gently extending the fingers back, either one at a time or together can feel good after doing flexing movements repeatedly during tasks such as typing. Keep it gentle and hold for 20 seconds or more. You can stretch the thumb by gently pulling it away from your fingers, and slightly back. Some of the muscles controlling the fingers start in the forearm, so stretching your wrist in flexion and extension with a straight elbow can also help loosen tension felt within the hand.