Weak forefinger

Hi, I know that in the grand scheme of things a weak forefinger might not seem that important but it’s starting to impact on my life. I’m an artist and my right forefinger is a fundamental part of what I do. It’s been slow for a while but now I can’t always hold a pencil or scalpel properly and I can’t do simple things like butter a piece of bread properly. I just wonder if anyone’s got any tips to strengthen my finger or to get it to do something more than it’s doing now? Looking it up on the internet everything seems to be geared towards carpal tunnel syndrome or trigger finger which is to do with inflammation, I have no pain, it’s just not behaving!

Many thanks

Becky x

Hi Becky,

You’re wrong. A dodgy finger in the world of art is a very big deal. I worked as an industrial artist for 18 years and holding pens, pencils, scalpels and brushes were something I didn’t have to think about.

Although I don’t have your particular problem I can empathise. The only thing I can suggest is a splint or finger brace; but I understand that you also need a degree of flexibility in the finger too.

Have a look online, there are a variety of cheap options to choose from. Even better, ask your GP for a referral to a physiotherapist for expert advice.

Best wishes

Anthony (Dip AD MCSD rtd)

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Thank you very much for your reply. I always feel it’s a big deal to me but trying to explain to someone that use of my hands is more important than the use of my legs somehow seems wrong so thanks for understanding! I will ask my GP about it.

Thanks again

Becky x

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Good luck and let me know how you get on. Anthony

Hi Becky There’s some stuff called Theraputty, which comes in different strengths and there are exercises you can do with it to improve your finger/hand strength and dexterity. I was given some and a sheet of exercises by an occupational therapist last Summer. Only 5 years after I asked a physiotherapist for help! You can buy the stuff, but you should really get some help from OT or physio. It’s important. There’s recently been a bit of a campaign by the Barts Blog team to think more about upper body, arm and hand mobility. Because often what we rely on when our legs go is our upper body and limbs. And for people like yourself, it’s about how you work. I’m sure that many artists would rather their legs stopped working than their hands. Regardless of work. I hope you manage to get some help. Sue

Thank you so much Sue. I think these answers have made me realise that it doesn’t really matter which bit isn’t working, if it’s important to me then it’s important! I’ve seen that putty, sounds like a good idea, I’m worried that if I don’t do something now I’ll regret it later. I’m going to start trying to get it sorted on Monday.

Thanks again

Becky x

I was recommneded Theraputty and also a brill hard ball, which I have to rub across the whole of my underarm bit at a time, very slowly, till it hurts, up and down, then down my palm in the back of my hand. I didn’t believe it but it does work, my physio said that part of the finger problem comes from a bit further up in my case, so pushing with the ball and continuing will release it (not completely) but enough to make a difference.

The other thing I have had to do is try to re-train my left hand to take over a bit, so I have spent a year strengthening that side of things.

My dodgy fingers will not go away but going to the physio eventually after several years of trying to get someone useful, was very helpful. I was very lucky, he was on a six month placement from Portugal and also said he was a general physio, he quietly knew a lot about M.S. or neurological problems. I wondered on the quiet if he had someone in his family who had a similar problem, because each week he came out with more revelations and excercises and proper explanations, not just the fob off ones you usually get.

My right side finger and hand problem is due to higher up damage so my theraputty and ball is a fixer in the short term. When I am watching tv I flex my hands, arms and fingers and sometimes toes a lot of the time. My friend said to do the alphabet with toes. This helps a great deal even though it is a small thing to do. Good luck.

ps on bad days, for me, best to not do anything with the right side hand, I rely on over meal that day. No chopping or anything like that, it only irritates. Then the next day, it will be fine.

Hebe is right, the finger problem comes from a bit further up.

Fingers don’t have any muscles, they are moved by muscles at the top of the forearm, much closer to the elbow. If you look at the underside of your arm and move your fingers, you can see the movement all the way up!

All the best,


So, does that mean if you exercise your hands / fingers with for eg, Theraputty, it won’t help? You have to exercise the arm to improve finger movement?

Or is it worth exercising the fingers anyway?


Theraputty will help. The muscles that control our fingers just happen to be in the arms.

My forearms were better developed when I played the piano than they are now. But not as big as Popeye’s.

I just wanted to second others’ comments that there is nothing trivial about a non-functioning forefinger in the scheme of things, great or small. In terms of impact on quality of life, hand function has at least as much impact as leg function, in my view. For someone who is a visual artist or a musician the impact must be devastating, but even for someone like me who does nothing more artistic than typing on a keyboard, doing up a button or putting in an earring (don’t get me started on that one!) poor hand function is, frankly, a total pisser.

Sorry I can’t suggest anything to help; I just wanted to say that I really feel for you. When MS seems to be making a beeline for the bits of you that matter to you most, it is a very bad feeling.


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