If there is one joint that takes a daily beating in modern life, it’s your wrist. When you’re taught how to use a musical instrument, you learn how to hold the instrument in a relaxed way so as not to stress your wrists. But there is little if any instruction on how to tap on a keyboard or move a computer mouse for hours on end without straining your wrist. It’s not a surprise that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects many people. If you perform wrist flexor and extensor exercises, however, you can keep your wrists strong and flexible.
If you’re at the office or in the kitchen, you can use a raised surface, such as a desk or table, to do simple wrist stretches. Place your hands flat on the surface, pointing your fingers away from you. Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch along your forearms and wrists. Repeat the stretch any time your wrists begin to feel tight. For a different stretch, rest your arm on a table and allow your hand to hang off the edge. Gently flex your wrist down and hold for five seconds. Bend your wrist up and back and hold for another five seconds. For a third stretch, place your palms together in prayer position. Point your fingers to the ceiling and point your elbows out to the sides. Lower your wrists until you feel the stretch and hold for five seconds.
Use one hand to apply pressure when stretching the opposite wrist and arm. For example, grasp the back of your right hand with your left hand and slowly push down on it. Hold the peak position of the stretch for 10 seconds. Reverse the direction of the stretch by pushing your right hand and fingers backwards with your left hand. Stretch the front of your wrist, holding the peak position for 10 seconds. Repeat the stretch three times and then switch sides. Stretch only until you feel a gentle tug from your wrist to your forearm. If you feel any pain or tingling, stop the exercise.
To strengthen your wrist flexor and extensor muscles, hold a weight, such as a soup can or a broom handle, in front of you. Use an underhand grip with your palm facing the ceiling. Bend your wrist upward to lift the weight. Lower the weight back to starting position. Using continuous and flowing motion, perform 10 reps for three sets. Then use an overhand grip with your palm facing down. Bend your wrist up and down to raise and lower the weight. Perform another 10 reps for three sets.
Using Elastic Bands
Perform intermediate wrist flexion and extension exercises with a resistance band. From a standing position, loop one end around the bottom of your foot and wrap the other end around your fingers. Turn your palm so it’s facing up. Pin your working elbow to your side and bend the arm at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your arm stationary, slowly flex your wrist up against the elastic band, contracting your hand and forearm muscles. Perform 10 reps for three sets. For a wrist extension exercise, perform the same motions as you did for wrist flexion, but turn your palm down. Limit this exercise to one to three times per week. Rest for a day between workouts to allow your muscles to recover. If they cause or aggravate pain, stop the exercises.
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.