Living with Arthritis: Releasing Tension from the Fingers

June 4, 2010

Are your fingers so stiff and sore that you have difficulty accomplishing even the basic necessities without pain? If that’s your reality then this Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® sequence may give you some welcome relief.

You'll discover that it takes a minimal amount of effort to make a substantial change in your level of comfort. With small gentle movements you can increase your ease of movement significantly in a short period of time.

Keep in mind the following tips as you do the lesson.

  • Make your movements slow and pleasurable. Your nervous system is designed to respond to two types of stimuli, pain and pleasure. If a movement feels good your system will relax and allow you to continue with growing ease but if a movement causes discomfort resistance and restriction will persist.
  • Pause between each repetition. The pause obliges you to pay attention each time you initiate a movement so that it won’t become mindless. Remember, this is about awareness and if you want to change your habitual movement patterns you have to become aware of what you’re doing.
  • Let your breathing be unhurried and easy. Don’t hold your breath and don’t over breathe. As you relax you’ll find that your breathing will automatically become more natural.
  • If you feel tension, discomfort or pain, you’ve doing too much so with the next repetition decrease your effort. If a movement continues to cause discomfort or pain, imagine it.  Using your kinesthetic imagination causes the motor neurons to fire as if you were actually doing the movement. You can do the entire lesson this way and effect measureable physical changes in your body.

For this lesson you’ll need a small ball—a tennis ball will do and if you don’t have a ball at hand you can roll up a sock. For added comfort put a pillow behind your back for support.  If your arm or shoulder feels tense when you rest your hand on the ball put a folded towel under your forearm. Read through the instructions a few times first to familiarize yourself with the movements.

  1. Sit on your chair with your feet flat on the floor a comfortable distance apart and hands resting on your thighs. Have the ball and the folded towel near by.
  2. Open and close your hands a few times. Notice which hand is more restricted in its movements. This is the hand that you will work with first.
  3. Put a tennis ball on your thigh and drape your hand over it and if necessary put the folded towel under your forearm. Let you hand be completely passive with the center of your palm resting on top of the ball and your fingers hanging passively.
  4. Roll the ball slowly towards your fingers. Initiate the movement from your shoulder and arm so that your hand remains limp. When you feel the ball touch the back of your fingers, roll it back to the center of you hand.  Repeat the movement in a leisurely fashion 4 or 5 times.
  5. Are you remembering to breathe? As I said earlier, holding your breath creates tension in the body and movement becomes more difficult. Let your breathing be ease and unhurried as you continue to move the ball.
  6. Now roll the ball in the other direction, towards the heel of your hand and back to the center of the palm a few times. Again make sure that your hand is passive by moving your whole arm a little tiny bit.
  7. Rest before continuing with the lesson.
  8. Now slowly roll the ball in a clockwise circle three or four times in the palm of your hand and then repeat the movement in the other direction. Continue to let your hand be passive and move from your shoulder and arm. This is a very small movement and may not even be visible to someone watching.
  9. Lift your hand from the ball and rest for a moment.
  10. Now, open and close both of your hands and compare how the fingers move now. 
  11. Repeat the lesson doing the sequence with your other hand.


Thank you very much, my hands felt nice after doing that.

- Mary Adshead

Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, and Functional Integration® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America. Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner ™ and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher ™ are certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild®.