Save Your Hands

Hands Saving


Hand Health

You can tell I might be running out of working-with-clay ideas. I’ll get back on track soon. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

I was excited when I learned about my hands though. As they are my livelihood, what I learned was important to me.

How do you hold your burnisher?

How do you hold your flexible shaft?

How do you hold your bezel roller?

How do you hold your file and sanding tools?

If you notice my hands at work in many of my photos, I most often hold tools like I would hold a pencil. ‘Instead of say, like holding a flashlight or jump rope. 

Recently I went to a hand therapist who explained to me why my habits have evolved as such. Any time you can bend your fingers rather than use them straightened, you are using them in a stronger and more protective mode. Bent, they work at their best and are the most agile for fine motor movements. Also, they are in protect mode, which staves off deterioration of muscles and keeps the tendons and ligaments stretchable, allowing for full range of movement. Anything you can do to prevent arthritis and other ailments of the hands is advisable now, even if you don’t have pain, swelling, or stiffness.

My left hand had a tight ligament between my pointer and thumb, which felt like a knot. When I think of it, I massage the knot between thumb and pointer, trying to ease it out.

Here are some tips for saving your hands' health.

  • Tools — Tools are important. For example, most jewelry pliers have rubber-tipped handles. And come in various shapes. Choose them so that your fingers are well bent when using. If possible, choose pliers with built-in spring action to save your hands and wrists. When selecting any tool, go for the one that is conducive to using the tips of your fingers instead of the pads.
  • Grip — Anatomy. Take a look at some of my photos and compare what you would be doing with your hands for the same task. Are your fingers more straight or nicely curved? Are you using the tips or pads of your fingers? Can you improve your hand position in any way?
  • Grip — Strength. Here’s an example to explain this. When I am using my flexible shaft I get so focused (apparently) that I grip the shaft harder and harder. Even though I may be using the tool in the best possible way, my grip is too strong for the task at hand. In a short time, my whole arm feels as if it is going to sleep. The hand therapist explained that I was full-on using all my muscles, tendons, ligaments, veins, and arteries in the hand, and that all these go through an anatomical bottle neck in my wrist. And the compression into that small tunnel was pinching some of them. Thus the tingling of nerves and numbness. ‘Sure enough, when I relax my hand (and continue working or not) my arm comes back to life.
  • Mudras — Exercises and hand workouts. One can get so into this hand stuff. For serious hand-lovers, here is a link to Hand Mudras, which are great exercises to keep your hands nimble and fully functional, which further contributes to your overall health. My therapist gave me one exercise to do while waiting for whatever (waiting rooms, traffic lights, computer, etc.). Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pointer, then middle finger, then ring finger, then pinky. Then slide the tip down your pinky to where it joins the pad of your hand. That’s it. You can do both hands at once.
  • Fingernails — The hand therapist reported that the trend in fingernails these days — as in acrylic — is doing great damage to many hands. She recommended that I cut my fingernails as short as possible; so that, when I work with tools I can use the tips of my fingers and not the pads (thus curving fingers as much as possible). I already keep my fingernails short for working with clay; because, like walking in heels, I have not acquired the particular skills that go with the task, such as long fingernails.
  • Overall Health — Body pH. The main reason I went to the hand therapist in the first place was because I was having a small amount of pain in the joints nearest my fingernails. I thought, “Oh, oh. Arthritis.” Yes, it was the beginning. Shortly after visiting her, I learned about Apple Cider Vinegar tablets. Do you know about the importance of body pH? (It is said the main causes of cancer and disease are hypoxemia, which is an abnormally low level of oxygen, and acidity, which is a low pH and the opposite of alkalinity.) Apple cider vinegar adjusts one’s pH toward the more alkaline side. My daughter told me about the tablets, which are a lot easier to take than a drink of vinegar. The day I began taking them, all the pain in my joints disappeared. And all pain remains gone. Honest.
  • Brain Flexibility — Huh? So, as you view the photos below and perhaps decide or not to change how you position your hands, realize you will be using new neuronic pathways. Regardless of age, using new neuronic pathways is a good practice and keeps you flexible and creative. If you continue to ‘stretch’ your brain and use new or roads-less-traveled pathways in your brain as you age, you will stay mentally acute longer. I view this as good, because too often with age we become limited to using our major neuronic pathways, becoming more quintessentially ourselves, which translates to a certain rigidity, lack of choice, uncooperative nature, etc. I don’t want to be like that.

So, I’m set. Between my new awareness of hand-health and body pH, I think I can last at least another five years in the studio.

hands 1 burnisher

How do you hold your burnisher?

hands 1 flexshaft

How do you hold your flexible shaft?
The extended pinky is an anchor.

hands 1 bezelroller

How do you hold your bezel roller? See below for a class on using the bezel roller.

Hand Bezelroller alt

This is another “Yes” hand position, at least for the hand holding the bezel roller. All fingers are curved.
(I can’t say how this position will impact one’s wrist though.)

hands 1 file

How do you hold your file and sanding tools?

For online courses in metal clay, go to I Love Silver, where you learn how to design and create your own silver creations.

The newest course (March 2016) is Setting Cabochons in Metal Clay. Watch a Promo Video.

© Kris A Kramer 2019