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The best hand and finger stretches for pain relief

In the age of technology, you’re texting, scrolling, tapping at your mouse or touch pad, and typing on your keyboard all day—contorting your hands into weird positions. Whether or not you’re feeling the pain now, it could lead to worse problems down the road without a few hand and finger stretches.

“Cell phones, tablets, laptops, desktops… all of the many devices at our literal fingertips are definitely predisposing young people to an increased risk for overuse or ‘repetitive strain’ injuries and future arthritis,” says Danielle Weis, PT, physical therapist and orthopedic clinical specialist at Spring Forward Physical Therapy. “To name a few: carpal tunnel syndrome, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, trigger finger or trigger thumb, arthritic joints, and various other muscle strains and ligament sprains in the fingers, hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder.”

It sounds scary, but it makes sense. “Just think about how many jobs require the use of a computer throughout the day. Add to that the many hours accumulated on cell phones and devices for personal use,” she says. “The amount of time spent with the hands and wrists in angled, arched, or curled positions create a perfect storm for pain and overuse injuries.”

The good news is, despite putting your hands and fingers through so much every day, Dr. Weis says adding certain hand, finger, and forearm stretches into your daily routine can help prevent and fight off carpal tunnel and other overuse issues.

“When you adopt certain postures and use your muscles for prolonged periods of time without rest, they adaptively shorten and can begin to feel tight and restricted. Stretching helps release the tightness and reverse the shortening of the muscles that takes place,” she says. “Stretching elongates the soft tissue, improves joint range of motion, promotes blood flow and lymphatic drainage, increases the muscle’s strength and endurance, and helps relax overactive nerve activity. By adding in stretching throughout the day, you can prevent overuse injuries from taking place.”

Whether you want to fight off pain you’re already feeling or prevent it in the future, these are the two stretches Dr. Weis recommends doing on the daily for the best results.

The best hand and finger stretches you can do anywhere

There’s no special equipment required for stretching, making it easy to do anytime and anywhere. “I typically recommend my patients who work at a computer try and stretch their fingers, hands, and forearms at least once every 1 to 2 hours. That may seem like a lot at first, but it only requires two minutes and it actually feels really relieving to do,” Dr. Weis says. “Try to couple it with another activity. If you finish up a work call or meeting, stretch. When you refill your water bottle, stretch. Every time you go to the bathroom, stretch.”

1. Wrist flexor stretch

  1. A wrist flexor stretch targets the fingers, wrist, and forearm all at once. To begin, straighten and keep your arm out in front of you, palm and inner forearm up.
  2. Pull down and back on the fingertips (bending back at the wrist) to feel a stretch in the inner forearm.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds at a moderate level stretch.

2. Thumb stretch

  1.  To do a thumb stretch, keep the wrist and hand straight up with elbow bent (as if you were waving) and spread your fingers.
  2. Pull your thumb down and slightly back, as if you were trying to pull your thumb away from your index finger to feel a stretch in the muscles at the base of the thumb.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds at a moderate level stretch.

For more, follow along with the video:

And then focus on your wrists:

Do your aching feet need some TLC, too? Here are 10 yoga stretches that can help. Then find out the least amount of time you should hold a stretch in order for it to be effective.

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