Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation and many of us are spending much more time on our devices. As as result I am seeing clients with hand and wrist pain, arising from chronic tension and stresses. Here I share my top tips for relieving hand and wrist tension. Causes of pain such as osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and gout require medical intervention and are beyond the scope of this blog.
A Bit of Anatomy
The forearm extends from the elbow to the wrist and contains two bones, the radius and the ulna. The wrist contains eight bones which articulate proximally with the radius and distally with the metacarpal bones which make up the hand together with the phalanges.
The forearm has an anterior compartment which consists of the flexor group of muscles innervated by the ulnar and median nerve. The posterior compartment consists of the extensor group of muscles and is innervated by the radial nerve.
The flexor group of muscles is involved in pronation of the forearm and flexion of the wrist and fingers. The extensor group of muscles is involved in supination of the forearm and extension of the wrist and fingers. Both groups are involved in abduction and adduction of the wrist. The intrinsic muscles of the hand are responsible for hand and finger movement.
Tips for Hand and Wrist Pain
- Stretches should be done once or twice daily for best results.
- Stretch only until you feel tightness, work in a pain free zone.
- Take a 5-minute stretching break every hour for continuous computer work and every few hours for lighter work.
- Massage can help ease tension and chronic pain. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, intervals can vary from twice weekly to every 2–4 weeks. If you don’t have time for professional massage, self-massage with a tennis ball is also effective.
- Pay attention to ergonomics – examine how you sit, whether your wrist is in neutral and supported when you work at your computer. Also think about how you handle your smart phone – are you straining your thumb joints?
Exercises for Hands and Wrists
Hand and wrist exercises can help strengthen your hands and fingers, increase your range of motion, and give you pain relief.
- Make Hand Shapes like a jellyfish moving through water
- Star Stretch – Sit at a table. Place your hand palm down on the table. Allow your hand to relax, then slowly press your palm down and spread out your fingers wide, without forcing your joints. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat up to 10 times
- Bear Claw – Bend your knuckles and draw your fingertips and thumb towards the centre of your palm; hold for 10 seconds; repeat up to 10 times
- Strengthen Your Grip – Grip and squeeze a stress ball or soft ball as hard as you can; hold for 5 seconds and release; repeat several times
- Finger Touch & Press – Touch the tip of your index finger to your thumb and press lightly; hold for 5 seconds; repeat for each finger up to 10 times
- Pinch and Pull – Pinch the fabric of your clothing ( a heavier fabric, like that used for trousers is best) or a soft deflated ball between your thumb and index finger, squeeze and pull.
- Finger Lift – sit at a table. Place your forearm and hand on a table palm down. Spread out your fingers and lift and lower each finger without straining your joints. Repeat 10 times for each hand. A variation is to lift your thumb and all the fingers whilst keeping your palm in contact with the table.
- Thumb Slide – Place your forearm and hand on a table, palm down, fingers and thumb together. Slide your thumb as far as you can away from your fingers without straining your joints. Hold for 5 seconds; repeat up to 10 times.
- Flex & Extend – sit down on a chair and place your forearm on your thigh palm upwards and let your wrist hang over your knee. Start with your wrist straight, then bend your wrist so that your fingers are pointing towards the ceiling. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds; release to the straight position then bend your wrist so that your finger point towards the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat up to 10 times.
- Motorcycle Rev – Hold your hand out in front of you, palm down and make a fist. Curl your fist back towards you like you are revving a motorcycle handle; hold for 5 seconds; return to straight and curl your fist down; hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. If you need additional support place your forearm on your thigh as above. You can progress the exercise, adding resistance by gripping a light weight 1-2 Kg.
- Handshake – Hold your hand out in front of you, fingers together as though you were going to shake somebody’s hand in greeting. Tilt your hand down so that your fingers point diagonally towards the floor; hold for 5 seconds. Tilt your hand up; hold for 5 seconds. Repeat up to 10 times. If you need additional support place your forearm on your thigh. You can progress the exercise, adding resistance by gripping a light weight 1-2 Kg.
- Assisted Flex and Extend – Hold your arm straight out in front of you, wrist and hand straight, palm facing down. Bend your wrist down so your fingers point toward the floor. Press using the palm of your other hand to increase the stretch, and gently pull the fingers toward your body. Hold for 15 seconds. Release to a straight wrist with palm facing down. Bend your wrist up so your fingertips point downwards. Using your other hand, place your fingers across the palm with your thumb across the back of your hand. Extend your arm and gently pull your fingers back toward you. Repeat 5 times.
- Strengthen your Wrist – Sit down at a table. Place your forearm, wrist and hand, palm down on the table. Place your other hand on top, fingers together across the knuckles to form a +. Lift the bottom hand up and resist with the top hand