I want better finger control!
May 21, 2007 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Help me develop better finger control.

I have never been able to fully bend my pinky without also bending my ring finger. For some reason, this frustrates me to no end, giving me no relief and hours of torment whenever I get caught up trying to do it.

I can't give the finger too well, because my other fingers clump up around the middle one. If I try to extend only my ring finger, the result is laughable.

This doesn’t interfere in my life in any way (other than playing piano would probably be easier with better finger manipulation) but it is something that has always irked me and frustrated my brain.

I would like to develop better independent finger control (and toe mobility while I am at it).

Is this possible to practice? Does anyone have any tips for this odd request?
posted by milestogo to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not the answer you're looking for, but open a biology textbook and take a look at the tendon structure of your hand - the reason you're having difficulty bending the pinky without the ring finger is that that function of those two fingers doesn't have an independant tendon and muscle, they're flexed by the same tendon.
They do have individual tendons for the knuckle pivot though, so what you can do is try to use the muscles operating the knuckle joints to somewhat counter-act and re-inforce the respective ring and pinky flexing.

As for your other questions, I'm hardly an expert, but those things sound like a case of tight tendons. People do stuff like yogo to lengthen them and increase flexibility throughout the wider body, so while I'm not sure what exercises you would do to gain more flexibility in the fingers, I imagine it can be done. Ask a concert pianist perhaps?
posted by -harlequin- at 7:38 AM on May 21, 2007

I have this problem. Piano teacher long ago pointed out to me that a tendon from my pinkie is fused to that of my ring finger (on both hands) rather high up. I have it on both hands, but it is fused higher up on the right than the left. I can see it when I place my hands as if typing (or playing piano) on a flat surface, and then (try to) raise my pinkies up while keeping the other finger tips on the surface. Do you see a tendon going from the bottom of your pinky towards the ring finger's tendon? On my right hand, my pinky tendon makes a sharp turn about 1cm down from the joint where the pinky meets the hand and joins my ring finger tendon at a right angle. If this is the case for you, just relax, there isn't anything you can do about it except stretch it out a little. And doing just this exercise with each finger for about ten minutes a day will improve your mobility.
posted by Eringatang at 7:38 AM on May 21, 2007

I learned to play violin. After about 5-6 years, the pinky on my left hand is almost completely independent, although the one on my right hand is still useless.

Practice finger exercises on or for stringed instruments, in other words.
posted by muddgirl at 7:39 AM on May 21, 2007

Huh, harlequin, it must be this knuckle pivot tendon that is fused for me? Whatever it is, I can see it clearly. One more thing about the exercise -- keep your knuckles bent went you raise the finger (don't straighten it out).
posted by Eringatang at 7:41 AM on May 21, 2007

I went on a lot of car trips as a kid, and as a result I can bend every knuckle of every finger independently, spread them out individually (like the live long and prosper sign, but with each) and tap them from thumb to pinky and vice-versa, which I guess is hard for some people.

Even with this ridiculous and useless habit (I wish I could do pen twirling tricks instead, when I do this hand trick during meeting I look like a spaz), I still can't raise my ring finger in-line with the back of my hand without raising the first joint of my other fingers. I can do it with my pinky, and almost with my middle finger.

The control I do have I got from holding my finger in the desired position with the opposite hand for for about a minute, pushing the finger(s) down into the hand. If you do that, when you release it your finger will be temporarily "stuck" like this. I'm not sure if this is a good idea for individual joint control (I can make my fingers "nod), as sometimes when my hands get stiff from cold or typing making a fist feels odd as each joint temporarily sticks before releasing.

I'm not sure if any of that made sense.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 8:01 AM on May 21, 2007

Eringatang: it must be this knuckle pivot tendon that is fused for me?

No, it sounds like you're describing the right ones. Did your instructor give the impression that many/most people didn't have that fusing? My understanding is that it's just the way that normal human hands are. But IANA[piano instructor or surgeon]
posted by -harlequin- at 8:14 AM on May 21, 2007

Yeah, my instructor gave me the impression that I had a freakish pinky finger. But, she knew what to look for, so it couldn't have been the first time she saw it.
posted by Eringatang at 8:17 AM on May 21, 2007

Schumann may or may not have ruined his piano career by attemping to strengthen his pinky and ring fingers.

As -harlequin- says, this is a normal part of human anatomy and doesn't make you weak or a freak. FWIW, I never had issues with those fingers when I played the piano.
posted by odi.et.amo at 9:05 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

As odi.et.amo pointed out, Schumann crippled his hand trying to fix the exact problem you describe. It is normal human anatomy. Beyond exercises that strengthen all your fingers, there is not really anything that would be beneficial.
posted by ilsa at 9:14 AM on May 21, 2007

Chopin, Étude Op.10, No 2.
posted by chrismear at 9:17 AM on May 21, 2007

It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, by Sharon Butler, has some exercises that might help. It's a great book.
posted by callmejay at 10:58 AM on May 21, 2007

Response by poster: thanks everyone for the great responses. Im going to try a bunch of this stuff out, including that chopin piece if I can manage it.
posted by milestogo at 12:15 PM on May 21, 2007

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