Non-Conventional Hand and Wrist Exercises That Work!

With more and more time spent at our computers, phones, driving, and just generally beating up our hands all day they can get sore and tired, and eventually lead to injuries like carpal tunnel and tendonitis.

 As a manual therapist I frequently experience fatigue and soreness in my hands also, so I can relate to you! What ultimately can we do to combat overuse of our hands?
I started noticing with my patients that I have a great success rate with shoulders, knees, hips, and the spine (keeping in mind I’m treating injuries that are appropriate for Physical Therapy), but not so great with the hand and wrist, so I decided to explore what seems to be missing. I started doing a ton of research on the internet, in physical therapy journals, asking other Physical Therapists what they do for it…you get the picture. I just wasn’t satisfied with what I could find though, I mean, who wants to hold a 2# dumbbell in their hand and do curls at the wrist? Or grab some putty and squeeze working on grip? I also found minimal short lived improvement with just holding a stretch at the wrist where you pull your hand down both directions. My point here is not only are these exercises boring, but not always successful either. So what did I come up with?
Believe it or not, finding my non-conventional wrist and hand exercises started off in a yoga workshop I took on arm balances where the instructor, in her infinite wisdom, gave us wrist stretches and exercises to prep us for each pose. Do you know what? They were the best wrist exercises I’ve ever seen and I’m going to share them with you:
The first one is actually for strengthening more than stretching. I start with a stretch (top largest pic), and then I start with my fingers facing forward, lift up and back down using my fingers, keeping my shoulders stacked over my wrists and repeat as I start to move my hands to the side, and eventually all the way around so my fingers are now pointing towards my body. For more difficulty, lean forward more, for less difficulty sit your hips further back or do the same things standing with your hands on a table or desk. If these CAUSE YOU PAIN, DON’T DO THEM! IMG_2180[1]

This next one is more stretching, you can go both directions, but I am demonstrating stretching the wrist extensors (across the top of forearm and back of hand). Hold each stretch about 10 seconds and repeat 10-15 times each. IMG_2182[1]

This last one is probably my favorite because it stretches the back, hamstrings (or back of the legs), and wrists! The deeper you bend your knees, the deeper stretch you feel feel in your wrists and forearms. Start with enough of a bend in the knees that you can get into the position, and then oscillate slowly between your starting position and bending your knees deeply for about a minute: IMG_2181[1]

Part two of my exploration came from a physical therapy course on increasing range of motion in a pain-free manner. Too much of the time we convince ourselves of the old saying “no pain no gain.” and we actually push ourselves too far, thus with good intentions, we make everything worse. The biggest gem from this course (as it relates to the hand and wrist) was about using a motion we don’t typically produce during the day to increase our range of motion in the directions we do use all the time with our wrists. It doesn’t seem like this would work, but it’s like magic! Let’s give it a try: position the non-injured hand at the wrist crease.
wrist mob2To find this, locate the bony edges of your forearm where the bones end at your wrist, then move your hand a tiny bit up towards your fingers and you will fall into a space where your wrist bones are (carpals). If you move your hand too high, you will see your thumb moving as you apply pressure, but won’t feel the wrist moving. If you are too low nothing will move because you will be pushing against your forearm bones instead of the wrist bones. Apply very firm pressure from the thumb side of the hand to the pinky finger side and then visa versa.  Be careful not to squeeze down around your wrist, you only want the web space of your good hand pressing into the wrist bones of the injured hand. This is easier to do with the injured side resting on a table or desk at the elbow but for the purposes of showing you a picture my arm is upright. After you do this, check and see if you can bend your wrist a little better.
  Now that you know what to do, you have to be consistent with it. I’m going to use an analogy: let’s think about eating food. Somewhere at the beginning of your day you eat breakfast (most important meal of the day!). You feel satisfied for awhile, but then you get hungry again and eat lunch, then snacks, then dinner, and the cycle continues. My point is that you wouldn’t just eat a few times a week, but rather it’s something you would do daily and probably several times a day. Working out your wrists uses the same principle; if you spend all day overusing them (like most of us do) you have to consistently incorporate these exercises to see results. How often you ask? As often as you eat! Let me know how these are working for you, and if you have a favorite exercise please share!
Disclaimer- This blog is not intended to treat, diagnose, or take the place of seeing your doctor if you have a wrist injury. If any of these exercises are painful to you, please don’t do them! Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions and let me know how you feel with these. I wish you happy healthy wrists!
Contributed by Dr. Katie Addis


Post a Comment

Prove you're not a bot!