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By Brittany Ferri January 25, 2021

There are many therapeutic treatments for Dupuytren's Contracture. It is often recommended that people utilize multiple treatments to alleviate their symptoms. Today, we'll focus on just one of these treatments: stretching.

Remember, stretching is one of the only Dupuytren's treatment that will not cost you anything and you can start at any time, though it's not wise to use stretching alone. There are some people that combine stretching withnon-invasive treatments such as Dupuytren's Contracture cream. A combination of treatments will have the greatest chance of success when it comes to dealing with this condition.

Does Stretching Help Dupuytren's Contracture?

Yes. Studies seem to indicate that stretching can help restore limited finger mobility in people suffering from Dupuytren's Contracture. 

One study found that stretching combined with massage, yielded a significant improvement in finger mobility as well as a reduction in nodules on the palm. It's likely that the latter was due to massaging as opposed to stretching, but this still proves its benefit.

While stretching is not a cure for Dupuytren's, it can provide temporary relief from symptoms. It may also help slow down the progression of the condition if it's used alongside other preventative therapies. 

Why Does Stretching Help Dupuytren's Contracture?

As you may know, Dupuytren's Contracture is a condition that causes hardening of tissue on the palm. This connective tissue is meant to be flexible to ensure that everything near it can move around as needed.

By stretching, you are essentially elongating this connective tissue. So the tissue that has been pulled inward due to hardening will slowly become more stretched out. This means the fingers will have some extra freedom of movement since there won't be such a strong pull on them. 

In serious cases of Dupuytren's, stretching will only provide temporary relief. Eventually, everything will be pulled back in, and the fingers will lose that loose and flexible feeling. Many people with serious cases of Dupuytren's will need to stretch multiple times per day just so that they can retain any use of their hands.

Will Stretching Slow the Progression of Dupuytren's Contracture?

Unlike other treatments, there seems to be no evidence that stretching will slow down the progression of the condition. However, this can be difficult to truly test because the disease progresses at different rates in everyone affected. In some, the condition can be rapid and cause serious finger contractures in just a few months. With most people, that will take years to happen.

What we can tell you is that stretching will at least help limber up the fingers and the palm. Some people also report having increased grip strength for a short while after stretching.

In our opinion, you should be stretching. It may not slow down the progression of the condition, but it will almost certainly make your life a little easier.

How Do You Stretch to Relieve Dupuytren's Contracture?

We first want to point out that these stretches only work if someone's main symptom is being unable to lay their fingers flat on the table. There is no sense in stretching if the only issue is small nodules on the palm of the hand. In fact, very few treatments are effective in the early stages of progression.

Because the one study that looked into the benefits of stretching of the fingers also involved massage to the palm and fingers, we suggest that you do this too. Gentle massage can relieve soreness. If you can, you may also want to use heat therapy, since this treatment can loosen up tissue and is known to help with Dupuytren's Contracture.

Massaging your palms should be simple. You can use your other hand to do this or ask somebody to help. You can use massage oils if you wish. Gently move the massaging fingers in an upward motion towards the heart. You will need to apply a small amount of pressure, but too much could worsen your symptoms.

Finally, it is important to not overstretch. There is the small potential to aggravate the Dupuytren's Contracture by irritating the tissue and causing temporary pain. You can avoid this by being gentle and looking for a light stretch. The hand isn't like other parts of the body. The palmar fascia is a lot more delicate, particularly when the tissue has hardened. 

We want to discuss three different stretches with you. If you have a serious case of Dupuytren's, then you will want to talk to your physical therapist or doctor first. They can advise you on whether stretching will be helpful or not. If it is, then they can often give you stretches that may be better suited to your situation.

Stretch 1

The simplest stretch is to hold your hand up in front of you as if you are waving to somebody. Now, spread your fingers apart. Hold the stretch for fifteen seconds, and then bring the fingers back together. Repeat this 5-10 times. You probably will not feel anything from this, but it prepares you for other stretches.

Stretch 2

This may cause a small amount of pain, especially if you have severe Dupuytren's. Again, hold your hand in front of you as if you are waving to someone. One at a time, push each finger back slightly using your other hand. Ideally, you should feel a small stretch. If this triggers pain, opt for even smaller stretches to each finger. If you experience any discomfort, stop immediately.

Stretch 3

The final stretch involves placing your hand palm down on a flat surface. This may not work for those with late-stage Dupuytren's. It doesn't matter if you cannot get your fingers completely flat, but you should be able to get close.

Once you are in position, gently raise your palm while keeping your fingers on the table. You should feel a slight stretch at the base of the fingers and maybe even in the palm. Hold this position for fifteen seconds before resting. You can repeat a few more times.

Conclusion

Stretching can help with Dupuytren's Contracture. While it will not slow down the progression of this condition, there is evidence that it can provide relief for those with limited mobility in their fingers. Stretching works especially well when it is combined with heat and massage. For optimal results, combine stretching with other therapeutic treatments.

Brittany Ferri
Brittany Ferri

Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who has 6 years of clinical experience treating conditions such as Dupuytren's, arthritis, carpal tunnel, and more. She is passionate about educating others about their health.


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