Stretches for Repetitive Stress!

We remember to stretch our legs before a short run but don’t always give our hard working hands and wrists the same consideration before typing flat out for an hour. Just as the quads and hamstrings need a good stretch before exercise, so too do the muscles and tendons in our wrists and hands.

More than ever, we are becoming increasingly dependent on computers and cell phones to work, communicate, and gather information. Having a surplus of information at our fingertips is pretty impressive. However, the long hours of using our fingers to be constantly connected can be detrimental to our hands and wrists.

Many hand and wrist health issues  are associated with the overuse of typing, writing, texting, and driving. Here are a few simple stretches to prevent and alleviate some of the painful symptoms associated with repetitive stress injuries to hands and wrists. These stretches are intended to strengthen and stretch your wrists, forearms, fingers, and shoulders. Please honor your flexibility and if any stretch causes too much discomfort, stop, and make adjustments.

Wrist Rolls

Bring your fingers into your palms to create a soft fist with each hand. Roll your wrists in circles about 10 times in each direction. Then bring your inner wrists together with your fingertips gently touching each other. Start to roll your inner hands into your outer hands creating a circle toward, and then away from, your body. Your inner wrists will touch and then your outer wrists will touch while your fingers follow the movement. Repeat 10 times.

Finger-Wrist-Shoulder Stretch

Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms out in front of you with your palms facing away from you. Focus on lengthening your inner elbows while keeping your shoulders pressed down. Hold this position for about 20 seconds and then reach over your head, fingers still interlaced, with palms facing the sky. Draw your arms back while pressing your shoulders down. Keep your core muscles engaged to keep your lower ribs from moving forward. Don’t forget to breathe! Do each stretch twice for about 20 to 30 seconds

Against a Wall Stretch

Lean against a wall with your arms straight. Rotate the hands inwards as far as possible, hold for ten seconds. Then turn them upwards, without lifting them from the wall. Hold for another ten seconds. Finally rotate your hands outwards as far as possible.

Shoulder Rolls

Roll the front of your shoulders forward and up as if you are trying to squeeze your ears with your shoulders. Hold them there for a moment and then slide your shoulders back and down. Do 10 in that direction, and then repeat 10 times in the opposite direction.

Tennis Ball Exercise

Take a tennis or stress ball and hold it in the palm of your right hand. Place your right forearm on a table, squeeze the tennis ball with your hand and fingers, count 5 seconds then release. Do this exercise 10 times then repeat with the left hand.

Rules of “Thumb” for Preventing Repetitive Injuries

Here are a few guidelines for preventing repetitive wrist and hand injuries and curbing painful symptoms:

  • Give your hands a break from your keypad during long work hours.
  • Try to keep wrists flat or “neutral” while typing.
  • Relax your shoulders. A lot of us are prone to store stress in our shoulders.
  • Set yourself up for proper alignment at your desk. You should be able to rest your elbows alongside your body, and sit with a tall spine and neutral wrists. Be sure your head is stacked over your shoulders, not reaching forward.
  • Use your whole hand, not just your fingers, when gripping or opening objects.