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Hand/grip strength

I’ve lately noticed that my grip isn’t as strong as it once was, most recently when I was making a Father’s Day ring for my husband. I was using pretty heavy stock, 8 gauge half round, and found that even after annealing very well, I had a lot of trouble forming it. I do have some arthritis in my right hand, but wonder if I’m losing muscular strength as well. Of course, at 66 I’m not a kid any more, but not ready for the bone yard yet, either! I wonder how other people have compensated for this or might know of exercises that would build strength in my hands.

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I too feel as if my hand strength has diminished over the years. I am 73 and have been making heavy forged, fabricated and twisted cuff bracelets for 50 years. This takes a lot of hand strength. For about 30 of those years I did shows. As a result I was in the habit of making 20 - 30 bracelets at a time. For the last 20 years I have not done shows and, as a result, don’t find myself doing repetitious operations that rely on hand strength for extended periods of time. I recently agreed to do what will likely be a very busy show. As a result, I need to make about 100 bracelets (3 in each style in different sizes). At first my hands would cramp and just hurt, but very quickly they have gotten back into bracelet making shape. I still have aches and pains at the end of the day, but they are in my back mainly as a result of some pinched nerves and other traits thanks to my mom. I guess that my suggestion is to either make a lot of jewelry or find exercises that will strengthen your hands. Make sure to do this under the watchful eye of a doctor or PT. I see both and they have been a lot of help. I also go to the gym 3 days a week and exercise my whole body. Jewelry making is a full body exercise and helps to keep yourself in shape. I have designed my shop to make me get up and walk so that I don’t spend extended periods of time in one position. I have also trained myself to take a break once in a while. I hope that this helps. Let us know how it goes. Good luck…Rob

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From one Agnes to another Agnes… I’m a couple years older. About 7 years ago I had an unplanned flying lesson out the back door with a garden hose. I now have more metal in my right hand, wrist and lower arm than I have in my metal knee. It doesn’t bend the way I want, but I have the use of it. Considering I turned most the hand into tiny little jigsaw pieces, detached the wrist completely to where it was twisted sideways and pointing back at my shoulder I also had to have a compound fracture with both bones sticking out on the side I couldn’t see. If you are going to do something, do it well. I still use many of the follow up PT exercises.

Get some therapy putty. different colors for different consistencies. a good trick with it is to get small little pieces of plastic you can with just your bad hand, first work into the putty maybe 20 little things. All about a 1/2 inch in height, with no sharp parts. Make the putty into a ball. now flatten the putty and with just one hand, find the pieces and pull them out. It gets easier, then you move onto the stiffer putty. You can use the putty just to squeeze it while you watch TV or are reading.

Next one is to get some clothes line cord. Then get some good sewing cloth clips. They are stiffer than clothes pins. With just one hand alone clip those clips onto the cord, then unclip them. It will make your hand hurt, but it is really a good exercise.

Then of all things the best exercise was to cook using a lot of pots. I hand washed everything in as hot of water as I could stand. The heat and the rotation of your hand using it in various ways felt so good. In fact any time your hand hurts, don’t use ice, use heat. It might make your muscles swell a bit, but it also looses up the muscles so you can do more tasks.

get a pack of cards and practice shuffling. Learn some card tricks. It helps with small movements.

Have fun with these and keep going.

Aggie

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While hand strength is primary, I’ve found that by using some strength replacement tools found in jewelry shops, I can keep making even at my advanced age. I use my hydraulic press more now than ever. I can shape rings, make bracelets, make even impressions of my makers stamp, dome bits for enameling, shape links for bracelets… The press and my rolling mill are essential. Judy H

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I was having problems bending thick ring wire as well. I ended up buying a ring bender, durston I think, and it changed my life. I’ve made 50 rings this season, in record time and less hand pain.

I also agree about a hydraulic press! For us on the other side of 60, every lil’ bit of assistance goes a long way.

One brand of the putty is Theraputty … Amazon sells it. You can buy different stiffnesses … 2 oz is the smallest about you can buy and its helpful to buy 2oz of several stiffness to see where you need to start. I’m 65 and my hands cramp when I file and I am blinder than a bat … I have to have strong magnification, either glasses or a scope, to set stones. Muscle loss as we get older is wicked. One of the major complaints of older folks is loss of hand strength. My dad retired at 65 and spent the next 27 years on the couch watching TV. When he passed, he could barely stand, dress himself, and do things we all want to do to remain independent. So … like Rob, I get up at 5 am in the morning 3 days a week and go grind out a workout with the weights at the gym. Another 3 days I do something aerobic. Some days it feels good, other days its a grind, but the alternative is much worse. That whole muscle loss thing just kinda creeps up on you and if wait till you really notice it the climb out of the hole is much harder. The gym is something I just know I have to do whether I am enjoying it or not.

I like this thread and want to reply. In my 30s could bench almost 300 and squat 500. Took up cycling then too when I gave up smoking. Filled one addiction with another. In my 40s joined a cycling team and raced masters till almost 60 when back issues would not allow me to train enough to race. It was always fun to race down and put the hurt on the younger guys. These days it is the younger riders who put the hurt on me. I too have lost much strength and weight. Hands have not been a problem yet. I like others have found the work around with tools and sometimes their modification. Also you can build back muscle but it takes more effort. Getting old and working is not for the weak.
Cheers
Franz

I’ve been using a hand grip strengthener from John Lewis in London for about five years. I don’t think this model is available any more (hinged pair of handles which squeeze an adjustable stiff solid polyurethane ball between). But Gripzilla and many others make something similar for hand strength.

Thank you all for these helpful suggestions. I’ve ordered the Theraputty & started doing some exercises I found on You Tube. I spoke to my MD last week about it and was less impressed with his advice, which was “Well, at your age, that’s to be expected. Maybe find another hobby.” I’m think instead of finding another doctor.

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Thanks, Brent. Pre-pandemic, I used to swim 3 or 4 times a week , but of course when all the indoor pools shut down, that was that. Then we moved, so that took up a lot of time and energy, a case of Covid last winter and pneumonia earlier this year, and I realized it’s been too long since I really paid attention to fitness. Your message is the wake-up I needed. Maybe it’s more about whole body strength than just my hands.