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By Brittany Ferri March 18, 2021

People who suffer fromDupuytren's Contracture may seek relief in several ways ranging from topical creams to surgery. The effectiveness of each potential treatment depends on a variety of factors, the most important being how far the disease has progressed.


People living with this progressive hand deformity will be pleased to learn that certain stretches for Dupuytren’s Contracture may help. When done in the early stages of Dupuytren's Contracture, these simple exercises can relieve symptoms and improve quality-of-life.

Does Stretching Cure Dupuytren's?

Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse or cureDupuytren's. But the silver lining is that it progresses very slowly. This means most people with this condition won't require surgery, and can usually manage their symptoms with home remedies, including Dupuytrens stretching exercises.

Are Stretching Exercises Painful?

Stretches for Dupuytrens intended to relieve Dupuytren's symptoms should not be painful. This level of discomfort is an indicator you're pushing yourself too hard, so it's a good idea to stop any exercise that causes pain.

Working through pain can do more harm than good, so start slowly. Go at a steady pace, taking breaks as needed. Stretching exercises should help you manage your condition by easing discomfort, so look for any signs of this. 

How Should I Stretch?

You can perform Dupuytrens stretches several times each day if you are so inclined. Remember to avoid causing pain by going too hard on yourself. You are in charge, so consider establishing a regular routine that works best for you and your lifestyle. This will also allow you to see steady improvements.

What Stretches Help Dupuytren's?

Here are a few stretching exercises that you may find useful:

  • Spreading your fingers. Place your palm flat on a solid surface. Spread your fingers wide like a fan and draw them back together. Stretch them as far as you can and note that they will extend farther the more you do this. Repeat several times.
  • Lifting your fingers. Place your palm flat on a solid surface. Lift one finger and hold it for a few seconds. Put that finger down. Now lift the next finger for a few seconds. Move from finger to finger, getting a good stretch for each one. Repeat as many times as is comfortable.
  • Bending your fingers. Hold your hands out in front of you. Now bend the first two joints of your fingers, hold them there for a few seconds, and straighten them. Repeat this as many times as is comfortable.
  • Working your thumb. One at a time, touch your thumb to the tip of each finger. Repeat several times.
  • Raising your palm. This is a variation of lifting your fingers. Place your hand flat on a solid surface. Keep your fingers flat on the surface as you slowly lift your palm. Hold it for a few seconds, then slowly lower it to the surface. Do this several times, as long as you are comfortable.
  • Pressing your hands together. For this exercise, place your hands together in a praying position. Now press them together while exerting as much pressure as is comfortable. Keep pressing for a few seconds and then release. Repeat as many times as you are able to.

Dupuytren's is a progressive disease. If you have already begun to experience contractures, some of these stretching exercises may be difficult. You can also use your other hand to gently straighten a contracted finger. Hold it straight for a few seconds and release. You can also repeat this as long as it's comfortable.

What Else Can I Do to Help with Dupuytren's?

Here are some other ways you can manage Dupuytren's:

  • Gripping exercises. It is never recommended to do high-pressure gripping if you have Dupuytren's, but you can do some simple exercises involving a grasping motion. Practice picking up things of various shapes and sizes to help maintain your dexterity. You may also prefer to grab soft objects like towels.
  • Hand massages. You can do this yourself or have someone else do it for you. An effective massage involves gently rubbing the hardened area on your palm and working up the length of each finger.
  • Applying heat. It may be beneficial to soak your hand in hot water or apply a heating pad.
  • Applying topical treatments. Anti-inflammatory Dupuytren's creams or ointments are often helpful in managing pain and swelling.

Can My Diet Impact Dupuytren's?

Anything you can do to reduce inflammation is helpful. It's a good idea to add more leafy, green vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fatty fish to your diet. These types of food help fight inflammation and give the body the nutrients it needs to recover.

What is Dupuytren's Contracture?

Dupuytren's contracture, or Dupuytren's Disease, is unknown in origin and has no cure. It's a progressive disease that slowly gets worse over time. In its advanced stage, Dupuytren's causes your fingers (usually the little finger, ring finger, and sometimes the thumb) to involuntarily bend inward toward your palm. This is called a flexion contracture.

Contractures occur because an excessive amount of collagen builds up in the palmar fascia, which is the fibrous connective tissue that anchors skin to your palm. Fascia makes it so the skin on the front of your hand isn't loose like that found on the top of your hand. This allows people to grip objects more easily. 

How Does Dupuytren's Progress?

Dupuytren's progresses very slowly. Home remedies like hand and finger stretches, heat pads, and topical applications work for about 80% of people with this condition. The need for treatment increases each decade after the appearance of the first lump. So the remaining 20% of people who require intervention for this condition are usually older.

The first sign is often a small, hard lump (called a nodule) near where the bottom of the finger attaches to the palm. Sometimes there is more than one lump to start, or more that develop over time. These lumps are usually not painful, but they may be a little sensitive.

As collagen levels increase, the palmar fascia starts to thicken. Soon, you will see a raised, cord-like band going from your palm to one or more fingers. As the disease progresses, this cord becomes tighter and causes the affected fingers to bend inward. This bend will eventually increase and cause difficulty straightening the finger. At the advanced stages of this condition, you won't be able to straighten it at all.

Who is Most at Risk for Dupuytren's?

Around 15 million people in the United States are living with Dupuytren's. Certain risk factors increase someone's likelihood of developing this condition:

  • Age. Dupuytren's can begin at any age, but most people with this diagnosis are 45-50 or older.
  • Gender. Men are much more likely to get Dupuytren's than women are.
  • Genes. Most cases are hereditary and have been observed to skip generations.
  • Ancestry. People of Scandinavian or Northern European descent may be more likely to get Dupuytren's.
  • Health. People with diabetes are at greater risk, as are people who have epilepsy and are taking anti-seizure medications.
  • Habits. Smokers or regular drinkers may be more likely to develop this deformity.

What are the Signs of Dupuytren's?

You should always consult a doctor if you are concerned that you might have Dupuytren's, because symptoms can mirror other medical conditions. If you observe the following signs on your own, write them down and tell your doctor:

  • One or two small, slightly tender lumps on your palm
  • Hardening lumps that cause skin changes due to tightness and pulling
  • Thick cords that start at your palm and travel up one or more fingers
  • You can't quite lay your palm or fingers flat on a table
  • One or more of your fingers bends inward toward your palm or outward
  • Your hand isn't working well when you try to grab things

Is Treatment Necessary for Dupuytren's?

Your doctor will be able to offer the best advice, but most people don't require treatment beyond the home remedies we mentioned. If you do need treatment, it usually involves one or more of these procedures:

  1. Enzyme injections to break down the hardened tissue and dissolve the thickened cord in the palm
  2. Needling to break up and separate the cord
  3. Surgery to remove the affected tissue

Conclusion

A regular regimen of hand stretches is an effective home remedy for managing symptoms of Dupuytren's Contracture. While they can't cure or completely stop the disease's progression, they can help you live your life with less pain.

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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