I need to work on dexterity/fine motor skills in my non-dominant hand.
December 6, 2013 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I have herniated discs in my neck that have resulted in some nerve issues in my left arm, with my hand as the latest victim. Specifically the last three fingers on my left hand have not been 100% lately.

**I have already seen a doctor. I will be getting treatment as soon as my insurance company approves it. I will be seeing a physical therapist. You are not my doctor nor are you giving me medical advice.***

I am currently having some trouble with the grip in my left hand, which I am working on with a squeezy stress ball; this seems to be helping. However, my typing is suffering a bit, and I have noticed other small irritations, like fastening buttons, turning pages, taking out/cleaning my contacts, etc.

I need some very basic exercises to keep my hand from falling behind, ideally which can be done while sitting at my desk. So far I've been doing stuff like picking up/stacking paper clips with my pinky and thumb, and rolling rubber cement into little balls with each finger individually against my thumb. Anything even slightly more interesting would be helpful.

(Typing exercises are not the best plan right now because the current layout of my desk is suboptimal for typing at any time.)
posted by elizardbits to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I drum on my desk with my fingers. This may or may not work for you depending on how sensitive your coworkers are to noise. You could practice rolling the fingers from right to left and left to right as quickly as possible.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:01 PM on December 6, 2013

When I had trouble with those fingers, the problem was through an impingement of the ulnar nerve at my cubital tunnel and in my shoulder. what helped the most was doing wrist curls, oodles of them, with a fairly light weight a bunch of times a day and also doing that thing where you hold a (light!) dumbbell vertically in both hands and dip it behind your head. Actually what helped the MOST was seeing a PT and getting ice/stim applied to the shitty joints, and also getting an ergo person in to take the arms off my office chair, but as you mention those issues are either in process or quite complicated.
posted by KathrynT at 12:21 PM on December 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Since one of your problems is typing, maybe you could try Typershark. I used to play it all the time when I was trying to get better with the number row - it might help to practice the motions you're having trouble with in a way that rewards your successes and punishes your failures (with sharp pointy DEATH.)
posted by kythuen at 12:24 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you played piano at all? Working through a song on that non-dominant hand would be useful.

Play the drums on your fingers. Pick a song you like, use the thumbs as drumstick and tap out beats on those three fingers.

Pretend you are scoceress and practice your death spells with that non-dominant hand.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:37 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Chinese balls can be had in various sizes for cheap.
posted by domnit at 1:25 PM on December 6, 2013

Get yourself one of these stupid things. Heck, I have a couple of them, if you give me your address I'll drop one in the mail to you on Monday.

Never mind whatever sort of chi releasing woo stuff they're "supposed" to do, I find them a delightful fidget. Whenever I'm reading or idling at work I've got one working around on a hand, rolling them up and down each finger in turn. Doing this one-handed requires some hand contorting and I think would do well for your purposes.

Also they're kind of spiky and feel nice.
posted by phunniemee at 1:36 PM on December 6, 2013

Put some tiny things (single dot Legos?) inside silly putty and then hunt them out and pull them out with your left hand fingers. They make my son do this at Occupational Therapy and it is his favorite.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:01 PM on December 6, 2013

I have the same problem in my right hand (the fingers will start going tingly then dead from the pinky inward) and I've found the only thing that works to bring function back is rest, ideally with (when I can get them) muscle relaxers.

Trying to use my hand before my neck nerves unfuck themselves seems to only make the problem worse for me.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:21 PM on December 6, 2013

An exercise that works well for me, having been on the verge of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, is this slightly involved exercise:

1. Spread your fingers,
2. Bring the tips of your fingers to the top of your palm, where your palm meets the fingers,
3. Spread your fingers again,
4. Bring your the tips of your fingers to the middle of your palm,
5. Spread your fingers again,
6. Bring your fingers to the base of your palm.

Repeat as necessary, and if it feels more natural, you can bring your fingers to the middle of the palm again after touching the base before returning to the top. Do this at a moderate pace, as lightly as possible, taking care not to tense the muscles involved any more than they need to be to move your fingers. When my RSI is acting up, I find this that this exercise improves my dexterity and relieves tingling/numbness, and as a bonus it relieves cold-related stiffness.

On a side note, everybody's different, but I'm pretty wary of the squeeze balls -- things like that always aggravated my tendonitis rather than relieving it. If it's not causing you discomfort then it's probably fine, but it's something to be aware of.
posted by invitapriore at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2013

Banking off the "drum your fingers" and "play piano" answers, one of the exercises I remember from my own piano lesson days is to rest your hand on something as if you were going to drum your fingers, but rather than just raise and lower each finger one right after the other, try to raise & lower each finger individually several times, leaving the tips of the other fingers still resting on the table or desk or whatever.

Then start experimenting with different patterns, like alternate your first and third fingers and then alternate your second and fourth, etc. etc. etc.

Also vary the speed at which you do the exercise, or how hard you bring your finger down, or keep each finger raised longer.

I suppose you could put pictures of the faces of your hated enemies beneath where your fingers would land and pretend you were going all Godzilla on them . . . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 3:42 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've found the only thing that works to bring function back is rest, ideally with (when I can get them) muscle relaxers.

I'm already on a ton of flexeril which is good for the gross crunchy feeling in my neck! Unfortunately it seems to affect dexterity in general everywhere because I am flopsy.

If it's not causing you discomfort then it's probably fine, but it's something to be aware of.

It's definitely nerve damage/pinching/squishing/badness and not sore tendons, so it actually feels pretty good after a while. Otherwise my fingers tend to curl up into a weird little claw hand.

I'M GONNA GET SOME LEGOS AND PLAY DOH. And also one of those weird spiky silver things that look like disturbing sex toys.
posted by elizardbits at 4:45 PM on December 6, 2013

You mean pinky, ring, and like half of the middle finger, right? This sounds a lot like issues I've had on and off with my left ulnar nerve. One thing I did that helped a bit was to make sure I was sleeping with that arm extended as opposed to curled up. You can put something stiff around your elbow at night to help with that. You can also do ulnar "nerve glides" like these or these.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:16 PM on December 6, 2013

When I broke my finger a few years ago, I did occupational therapy for a while (a broken finger sounds like NBD to some people but it was my writing hand and I lost a lot of hand strength due to other affected but not broken fingers). One of the things that helped me get strength back was this game where I had to wind rubber bands around pegs on a pegboard. i tried to find the game online but it could be achieved by a bunch of nails stuck in a stable board + rubber bands.

It hurt like HELL at first but did help a lot with the function and hand strength.
posted by sweetkid at 7:09 PM on December 6, 2013

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