Extensor tendons allow you to extend your wrist and open your hand. They run along the forearm to the wrist and then along the back of the hand. Because these tendons have little protection, they are quite vulnerable to injury. You could injure your extensor tendons in several ways:

  • lacerations (for example, if your hand goes through a glass window)
  • blunt trauma or crush injuries
  • deep burns
  • animal bites
  • disease


In people with rheumatoid arthritis, these tendons can erode and rupture at the wrist. And someone with ruptured extensor tendons will lose movement in the fingers.

Most extensor tendon ruptures must be surgically repaired, but surgery alone will not restore the hand to the fullest function possible. To regain dexterity, it is essential that surgery be followed by several months of physical therapy. Because the wrist and hand are complex structures, each extensor tendon repair requires a slightly different approach to rehabilitation, depending on where the rupture occurred, how many tendons were injured and whether there are other surrounding injuries such as broken bones.

Physical therapy can prevent scar tissue from forming between the tendon and the bone so that the gliding motion of the tendon is restored. This allows the hand to open and close smoothly through its complete range of motion (ROM). But care must be taken to balance exercises that increase ROM against putting too much tension on the repair site before it is fully healed.

Only properly guided rehabilitation can return full use of your hand following extensor tendon surgery. We can work with your doctor to develop a physical therapy and home exercise program appropriate to your injury.

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