The Pain Series: Wrist Injury and Strengthening Exercises

Wrist pain or injury is common. Fortunately, most wrist pain is non-life threatening and can usually be successfully diagnosed and treated by your physiotherapist or doctor. Wrist pain occurs from many potential sources of everyday life. These include sports injuries, work injuries or simple everyday arm use.

For optimal wrist pain relief and function return, an accurate diagnosis is essential. Wrist pain has multiple causes. these include wrist joint dysfunction or arthritis, wrist ligament injury, tendinopathies or muscle injury. Alternatively, wrist pain can be referred from your cervical spine (neck joint dysfunction or a pinched nerve). Local nerve compression can also occur with two common presentations carpel tunnel syndrome or ulnar nerve palsy. Both of these conditions should prompt early assessment and treatment to avoid permanent nerve damage and loss of muscle power, sensation and function.

The good news is that most wrist pain and injury respond favourably to physiotherapy or other medical intervention. Please do not delay consulting your healthcare practitioner if you experience wrist pain. Some wrist conditions do require surgery, so early assessment and intervention is important

Your hands perform a variety of tasks every day, from gripping a steering wheel to typing on a keyboard. These repetitive motions can create weakness and stiffness in your wrists and fingers.

Practicing simple exercises can help prevent injury. Exercises can strengthen your wrists and keep your hands and fingers flexible.

Wrist exercises increase flexibility and help lower the risk of injury. Stretches are recommended as a preventive measure or to ease slight pain. However, they should not be used by people with inflammation or serious joint damage unless recommended by a healthcare professional. This is because, in those cases, exercise could cause more harm to your wrists or hands.

Always speak with your doctor before attempting new stretches or treatments. It’s important to determine the exact cause of your wrist pain first

Simple hand and wrist stretches

There are several easy wrist stretches you can do at your desk at work.

Praying position stretches

  • While standing, place your palms together in a praying position. Have your elbows touch each other. Your hands should be in front of your face. Your arms should be touching each other from the tips of your fingers to your elbows.
  • With your palms pressed together, slowly spread your elbows apart. Do this while lowering your hands to waist height. Stop when your hands are in front of your belly button or you feel the stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat.
  • Extend one arm in front of you at shoulder height.
  • Keep your palm down, facing the floor.
  • Release your wrist so that your fingers point downward.
  • With your free hand, gently grasp your fingers and pull them back toward your body.
  • Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

Extended arm

To stretch in the opposite direction:

  • Extend your arm with your palm facing up toward the ceiling.
  • With your free hand, gently press your fingers down toward the floor.
  • Gently pull your fingers back toward your body.
  • Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.

Repeat both stretches with the other arm. You should cycle through the stretches two or three times with each arm.

Clenched fists

  • While seated, place your open hands on your thighs with palms up.
  • Close your hands slowly into fists. Do not clench too tightly.
  • With your forearms touching your legs, raise your fists off of your legs and back toward your body, bending at the wrist.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Lower your fists and slowly open your fingers wide.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Building hand and wrist strength

Building wrist strength can also help you prevent injury. There are several exercises you can use to build strength—whether you’re at home or in the office.

Desk press

  • While seated, place your palms face up under a desk or table.
  • Press upwards against the bottom of the desk.
  • Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.

This exercise builds strength in the muscles that run from your wrists to your inner elbows.

Tennis ball squeeze

  • Squeeze a tennis ball or stress ball firmly for 5 to 10 seconds.

This should not be painful. However, it should allow you to strengthen your wrists.

Thumb work

Push exercise:

  • Make a fist and point your thumb up, as if you’re giving a thumbs-up sign.
  • Create resistance with your thumb and hand muscles to keep your thumb from moving.
  • Gently pull back on your thumb with your free hand.
  • Hold and repeat.

Pull exercise:

  • Make a fist and point your thumb up.
  • Create resistance with your thumb and hand muscles to try and keep your thumb pointing up toward the ceiling.
  • Use your free hand to gently push the thumb forward.
  • Hold and repeat.

Physiotherapy can work wonders for acute injuries, for more information on how physio can restore your wrist to perfect condition, call PCA on 0812 208 0496!

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