Hand problems

Sharon, and any one else dealing with weakening hands,

I am recently becoming aware my hands are losing strength. I
know there is developing arthritis, and take chondroitin and

Has anyone any hand strengthening suggestions?

How are others handling this? Anyone designing any bench aids to
make some things a bit easier?


Teresa Hand problems can be helped by acupuncture and or
acupressure points that you can perform yourself. Also overall
Yoga stretching and exercises may help as they increase
circulation and reduce overall stress… A pure Sulfur
compound called MSM when combined with your Glucosomine may
help. Search the web and your local health food store for info
and books. Good Luck Steve RnL

Dear Teresa, I am sorry to hear of your hand problems. How
awful. As an “age-challenged” jeweller, I’ve noticed too that I
seem to be not as supple as I used to be. Strangely, this seems
to manifest itself if I have been away from the bench for a
significant period. As soon as I’m back at the bench, the aches
and pains seem to disappear.

I’m often stiffer and more achey - especially in the shoulders
and neck - from sitting in front of this bloomin’ computer
screen, than I am from working at my bench. I suspect that I
might be addicted to crafting jewellery and need, perhaps cannot
do without, my regular “fix” of benchwork.

Stay well; I’m sorry that I can’t offer more than sympathy.

Kind regards, Rex

There is a handy little exercising device to restore strength to
injured hands or to build up strength in weak hands. It’s
called Grip-Master and was designed by a hand therapist.It comes
in three different tensions and exercises individual fingers or
the whole hand. I bought mine in a musical instrument store in
order to strengthen my left hand for fingering guitar strings.
It turned out to be a blessing after I had torn a ligament in
my index finger,which left the whole top joint flopping around
and virtually useless.(not too good for trying to make jewelry)
Eight weeks in a splint healed it, but the finger was stiff
and misshapen. Thanks to regular exercise with the
Grip-Master, (and to the surprise of the orthopedist) the
finger is now straight, strong and supple. I know this sounds
like one of those TV sales pitches, but it really worked! It’s
manufactured by IMC Products Corp. PO Box 32,Westbury NY
11590,USA Telephone: 800-752-0164 >D<

Orchid Digest Post:
Hand problemsFrom: etienne perret perret@hotmail.com

If you don’t have a bench mate tool, cal Quesswein or Rio today
and order the GRS bench tool set. It will change your hands
situation over night. You won’t know how you ever lived without
it. best wishes

From: Jess4203@aol.com

Teresa: I don’t have experience with this myself, but awhile back
there was a thread on hand problems and several people
recommended working some time every day with silly putty, just
working it in your hand. You might try it. I would keep on with
my glucosamine and chonroitin, as I just read a book on the
arthritis cure, and the author thought the research on these was
persuasively positive.


From: DSull74541@aol.com

I too use to suffer from hand problems. What worked for me was
chinese massage, some accupunture and I started taking Yoga
classes. All of the above changed my life! It is really
important to strech out your hands and learn to relax your hands
when you are not working. When your hands start bothering you-
take a break. If you let it go on for too long it will start
affecting your neck and shoulders too.

Take care.

From: GWD612@aol.com

Teresa, I agree with RnL regarding excercises for your hands and
the use of a dietary supplement called MSM
(METHYLSULFONYLMETHANE). Can be purchased at a good health food
store and they will have an info sheet on it. I take 750 mg a
day. It has totally gotten rid of shoulder pain where I was
told by my orthopedic that i had lost the cartlidge buffer
between my collar bone and shoulder (where the two meet is
called an AC joint) MSM seems to be a wonder “drug”. I learned
of it from a friend whos chiropractor recomended it to her for
back pain. She has had amazing results too. I even stopped
taking it for a month to test its results and the pain returned,
have been taking it for over a year , no side effects. Might be
worth a try. Gary in Redding, Ca.

From: marci r lebowitz healdoor@juno.com

theresa: your hand problems are right up my alley. i have 11
years experience as a hand therapist and i am also a jeweler. i
have developed a lecture series called “workspace design for
jewelers” that deals with your the physical challenges
experienced by bench jewelers. this talks about
modifying/adapting tools and the studio setting, bench aids,
exercise programs, treatment tips, pace and break schedule, etc.

if you want to e-mail me personally at healdoor@juno.com and
tell me some more of your specific challenges, i may be able to
give you suggestions targeted for your exact problems.

yours-marci lebowitz

From: DSull74541@aol.com


I was thinking some more about your problem. On top of all the
other things I have mentioned in my last email that might help
you- you should make sure you are sitting properly while you are
working. Make sure that the bench is helping to support you
while using the flex shaft by supporting your elbow on the top
of the bench. In order to do this correctly you must be seated
properly. Lapidary Journal years ago had an article about
sitting properly at the bench. If you contact them you may get
a copy.

Make sure you have a good chair that provides proper support for
your lower back too. Your whole body is connected and I bet if
your hands are bothering you- may be having neck and back
problems too. I know it may not sound like much but last year my
hands were really scaring me and I started Yoga, Chinese massage,
bought a decent work chair and started sitting properly and all
my hand problems melted away.

Keep care!

From: “Pam Chott” jrchott@primenet.com

Although my problem is carpal tunnel related, I have found the
GRS Benchmate system to be a tremendous assistive device. I have
also wrapped the handle of my jeweler’s saw to make it easier to
manipulate with a lighter grip.

There is a local metals professor who is preparing an informal
guide to hand exercises which help to prevent repetitive motion
injury. I will be happy to share with his permission when it is

I’ll be interested in additional suggestions, as well. I look
forward to bench work for many years to come. Pam

From: “Alanalee” alanalee@gte.net

I have found that Handeze therapeutic gloves, while not
strengthening my hands, seem to keep them from getting tired and
sore. I see them as more of a preventative than a curative, and
would be interested if anyone has used them or has more knowledge
about the longterm benefits, if any, of using them. They are
available at most drugstores for approximately $20. Alana

From: “Kathy Palochak” kpalchk@trib.com


My hands were severely damaged by Lyme arthritis. Glucosamine
and chondroitin work well. Peeling yucca leaves work well on any
type of rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s difficult to find a
supply. I get mine from private land when I visit New Mexico and

One thing I’ve found that helps is to build up grips on your
tool handles. Dense foam, such as the spongy material which is
used for insulating some mugs, taped on with electrical tape
works well and is fairly cheap. Actually, downright cheap if you
pick up the mugs at garage sales.

Another thing which I’ve found for more small files is a plastic
handle with an adjustable collet inside. I just use some tape on
the tangs of micro files to build them up so it can grip
securely. They’re about $3-$4 from Thunderbird Supply in Gallup,
NM. I think RGA has recently begun to sell them also, as well as
adjustable handles for larger files.

Also check into physical rehabilitation places. Often they have
equipment and/or catalogs filled with things for people which
have limited use of their hands due to trauma and illness, which
can be adapted to jewelry making. KP in Wyoming

Sharon – A while ago someone posted a set of exercises for
hands–they were very useful, but I don’t have a copy available.
Check the Archives and I think you may find them there. Sandra

Two more thoughts on the subject of making arthritis-friendly
tools. I’ve used duct tape to build up hammer handles and like a
tape called “Alligator Skin” (found on page 347 of this year’s
Rio Grande catalog, item number 201-329) to build up the handles
of wax carving tools. Geo.

Teresa, This one I know… I have traumatic arthritis in my
right hand, a car I was in rolled and my hand ended up between
the car’s roof and the ground. The dr. said I would not have use
of that hand ever but I have almost 100% use of it. I used a
small nerf ball (the sponge type for exercising grip and
gradually worked to a tennis ball. I use a product called
bio-freeze on my hand when it gets stiff or I use it an extra
lot. I also have a brace I sleep in if all the above doesn’t

To all who have shared, Thank you for all the suggestions and
experiences. I just flashed on a “fancy” manicure I had couple of
trips ago to Plano. My hands were dipped and redipped several
times into quite warm parrafin and then wrapped in plastic and
covered by warm towels. That felt great. Do you think dedicating
a crock pot to this might be of some benefit?

I will definitely add the supplement. I wish my HMO covered
acupuncture. these are all viable and valuable suggestions, many
thanks to all. Happily, Teresa

Rex, Perhaps if I moved the mouse over to the left side? Actually
I am a bit ambi-dexterous and used to use my left hand for the
mouse, but when I rearranged the computer station, the mouse
wound up on the right and it is the left hand that is getting
finger bumps and below the thumb weakness.

Yes it must be something about the years as I just had a
birthday this last Tuesday. I must now reprogram my brain to
state my new age as incredulous by some 20 years as it seems.

Tuesday evening I am meeting Brian Adam at Los Angeles Airport
between his arrival and departure flites. That should be fun.
What is a 200 mile drive round trip considering this global
community we have developed. Earlier today I drove into San Diego
to meet Patrick Smith another Internet Jewelry person, great fun.

My best wishes to both of you.

Hi: I have a broken left wrist and the fourth and fifth
metacarpals in my right hand. This has resulted in much change
requiring me to wear a brace on my left. the only things that
have kept me able are the benchmate deluxe system (Rio Grande) A
gravermax, and the allset system. These devices have allowed me
to still produce a quality product. Other work saving devices
and an electric filer have helped also. I have made some
exercise devices that approach the mobility problem with an over
all program of conditioning, the other thing that worked the
best was to soak my hands in as cold of water as I could stand
for at least an hour whit 4 5 min warm ups with exercise to get
the blood flowing to the hard to get places. To do this I go
dredge Gold in the cold mountain rivers one week is good for
about 3 years of change, but the toxins build up and you have to
do it again. Ringman John Henry

I must have missed Sharon’s post on weakening hands, but just
saw Teresa’s response to it. For strengthening hands/grip etc
those hand-excercising squeezie-balls available at many healthfood
places & drug stores as well as massage/physical therapy
locations would help. There’s also a book called Strong Women
Stay Young which has good excercises. On the pain front : I also
take Chondroitin/glucosamine or however they are spelled as well
as occasional aspirin or tylenol for pain. And I’m about to
invest in the gloves many knitters and hand-workers use to
support the wrist and palm. One brand I know of is called
Handeze. They compress and massage, are fingerless, findable in
many catalogues, cost about $20 a pair. Alot of knitters and
needleworkers I know swear by them and I would think they’d help
w. jewelry work as well. Anyone out there tried this yet?
Other ideas? Ryr

Hi Teresa, Okay try these exercises from some of the best hand
doctors in Baltimore (surgery was done there). 1)Take 2 balls–1
in each hand obviously–of any type, tennis works well, and
squeeze-squeee-squeeze! as hard as you can, starting with 10
times and working up to as many as you care to do, and do it at
least 3-5 times a day. Get yourself in the habit of keeping the
darned balls around wherever you relax a little (bath, bedroom,
living room, patio–wherever) and every time your hands are
empty pick up the ball(s) and squeeze. #2) Make a tight fist
with hand(s), then extend and spread fingers as far/much as you
can–like you were sticking your hand into a bin of fancy
diamonds and grabbing handsfuls, then flinging them away from
you. Do this one anywhere, anytime your hands are empty. 3) The
old standby: go to an exercise equipment store and buy 2 of the
hand exercisers–they look like a pair of wide tongs with,
usually, wooden handles (may be plastic by now, everything else
is! but my antiques have wooden handles)–the tong/metal part
comes out of the handle, is a couple of inches long and has a
coil in the middle and then straightens out parallel to the first
handle to form–naturally! the second handle. They (used) to
come in different squeeze strengths; as the clerk who helps you.
Also–do you do a general overall fitness routine? Not gym or
workouts, just stretching exercises and walking, that kind of
thing? Don’t know your age, but if you don’t do fitness,
recommend you start now. Anyhow, the 3 above are the ones I was
given 15 years ago, and they have helped me keep my hands
flexible and slowed down loss of strength in them. Oh–also
don’t know your location but–if you’re in a fair-sized
town/city, you might check yard sales etc. for sources of
exercise stuff. The only other suggestion I can make is DO take
care of the hands and DON’T do heavy lifting–put your forearms
under/around what you want to lift and let your
arms/shoulders/back do the lifting, not your hands. Hope these
suggestions help you–but again, PLEASE!!! get yourself to a
rheumatologist and have the bloodwork/testing done (especially
ANA, anti-neuclear antibodies) to rule out rheumatoid arthritis.
If it is RA, you need to get treatment NOW, and I do mean now!
because the longer you wait, the more it can cripple you, and RA
is not just a joint disease, it’s systemic and affects every
organ ultimately. You need to eliminate RA Teresa…good luck.
Sharon Holt

The Handeze gloves are great for any activity calling for
repetitious small hand movements – have used them doing
everything from needlework to bench work to restringing pearls.
And the crock pot for melting paraffin works well, too. Certainly
less $$ than the specific device sold by medical supply houses.
Just be sure to use one with a temp control – too hot wax can
cause a horrid burn.

No need to pay $20.00. These Handeze glvoes are available for
about 4.99 each at your local drug store. I have found them
useful for typing and for the hand holding the flex shaft
handpiece (helps absorb the vibration). At that price, so
reason not to buy them. The downside is that it is a glove, and
that limits when it can be safely worn at the bench. That’s why
I recommend wearing them at the computer.


I wear the black foam wristbands that are fastened with velcro
made for tennis players and available at Walmart or any similar
store. They work wonders, reduce the pain in no time and
seemingly cure the pain (tendinitus (not sure of spelling)) for
several days. When the pain starts in again I just wear the
bands for a couple of days.

Jan (I think we are finally going to have some Summer, we skipped Spring
here in So. Oregon)

Hi, A trick used by dental techs to build up the handles of
waxing tools is to slip a piece of appropriately sized rubber
tubing over the handle. You can also use water pipe foam
insulation to slip over thinnish hammer handles in addition to
garden rakes and other tools.



Skip Meister
Orchid Jewelry Listserve Member
N.R.A. Endowment &
Certified Instructor
in all disciplines
Certified Illinois D.N.R.
Hunter Ed, Instructor
ICQ 37319071

I have found a solution to mouse related hand stress, that
seems to have worked for me. On first evaluation it might sound a
little crazy, but my fingers don’t get numb very much since I
started using this technique. I got one of those plaster " Roman
column" pedestals, , about knee high, so that when I position it
next to my chair, my arm is in a relaxed position, just about
parallel to my thigh, with my elbow at the waist.

I had a round “basketball” mouse pad which happened to fit
perfectly on top. I then reconfigured my mouse so that it was
essentially backwards, with the buttons under my palm. (the
direction of the mouse can be changed in the orientation setting
under the productivity tab of the mouse set up program). I also
changed to the right click as the predominate button.

Instead of using my fingers to click the mouse, I cup it with my
hand, keeping the fingers relaxed and by resting the base of my
palm on the pedastal, I can use my palm to do the clicking. It’s
a little awkward at first, but I got used to it after a short
while. Within a few weeks, much the tingling and numbness
subsided, ( making bench work, much more pleasant)!

I don’t need to use the backwards settings for the the mouse any
longer, but continue to use the pedastal as an ergonomically
friendly rest stop for my hand. I hope this helps.

Jesse Kaufman


Please don’t try the hot-wax treatment at home! You could get
seriously burned. The wax treatment you get in a salon is
wonderful, but I think that the temp of the wax must be very
carefully controlled. Warm-hot water is better at home. At least
you can get out of it quickly!

I’ve had PT with a hand specialist, and still manage to do some
of the stretches. The simplest is to put your hands palms-down on
your chair and (gently) sit on them. At last a use for
middle-aged spread!

Hand-eze gloves are good, but be sure to get a pair that fit
properly. They come in several sizes. I have had to sew the
wristseam tighter on those because I have a skinny wrist. You can
also use Isotoner gloves for compression. I wear them (and the
Hand-eze ones) inside out, to avoid cutting off circulation with
the seam edges.

Also the microwavable heat packs are nice. Just be sure to moosh
them up after heating to avoid hot spots, and put them into a
flannel sleeve. If you cut the toe out of an old sock and put the
warm-pack into it, it makes a nice sleeve for your wrist while
typing, mousing, etc.

I find that I bring more injuries to the bench than I take away.
Moving furniture, scrubbing the house! Varying the type of
benchwork during the day is helpful. Also I find that the more I
can integrate stretches into the work routine, the better. Taking
time aside to do these things just doesn’t happen!

Be nice to those hands!


Jeanne, You are right, be nice to your hands. I must
confess,housework and I do not see eye to eye.

I will try the compression gloves at the computer. I’ll squeeze
balls, stretch fingers, (when I remember) and when they are cold,
I do sit on them.

It is the aches of age that should not be. Since all do age, and
most do ache, you would have thought there was more than ample
time to adequately deal with it.

Oh well, it won’t make Oprah.
Thanks a bunch,