Tackle Work-Related Typing Pain With These Easy Wrist Exercises

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Marathon typing sessions – whether you’re tackling hundreds of unanswered emails after a few days on PTO or quickly typing up that final paper – can be seriously stressful, especially for your wrists.

But, why is that? According to Gary Johnson, MSOT, OTR/L, MBA, occupational therapist at Athletico Physical Therapy, it could have to do with putting pressure on the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow passage at the base of the palm that consists of the small carpal bones of the wrist and a ligament on the palm side. The word “tunnel” makes more sense now, huh?

“Within this narrow passage, there are nine tendons that are responsible for flexion of the fingers and the median nerve,” Johnson explained. “The median nerve is responsible for the sensation of your thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of your ring finger. With added pressure and/or compression, as well as repetitive movement to this area, the median nerve can become compressed, creating altered sensation throughout those fingers supplied by the nerve.”

This sensation, Johnson said, can manifest as numbness and tingling, and even pain throughout the hand.

Taking regular breaks from typing, stretching, and moving your wrists, fingers, and elbows can help alleviate some of the discomfort, Johnson said.

Sometimes the set up of your desk is actually the root of the problem. Johnson noted that an occupational therapist or a certified hand therapist who specializes in workstation ergonomic assessments can actually review if your desk is ergonomically friendly and make changes as needed – i.e., adjusting the height of your monitor, chair, and keyboard, or switching you to an ergo mouse.

Performing wrist and finger exercises, like the moves Johnson outlined ahead, is another way to help reduce and prevent pain. However, if you’re dealing with consistent pain, it’s always best to receive a personalized assessment and treatment plan.

Tendon Gliding Exercises:

  • Start with your fingers straight up and bend the top two joints down so your fingernails are pointing toward your palm.
  • Second, roll your fingers down to make a full “punching fist,” ensuring each finger joint is bent.
  • Next, with your knuckles still bent, lift your fingers out as if you are pointing, but at a 90-degree angle at your knuckles – the “L” position.
  • Finally, from the “L” position, bend your fingers down from your middle joints, making a finger-to-palm position or a straight finger fist.
  • Complete 10 times, two to three times a day.

Median Nerve Glides:

  • Start with a fist, looking at the side of your hand.
  • Open your hand so that your fingers are extended.
  • Still looking at the side of your hand, slightly extend your wrist back.
  • Turn your palm to face your body and extend your thumb and supinate your forearm; lightly grab and stretch your thumb toward the floor.
  • Repeat steps five times, two to three times a day.

Wrist AROM (Active Range of Motion) Exercises:

  • Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and face your thumbs toward the ceiling (palms looking at each other).
  • Flex and extend your wrist (back and forth or side to side).
  • Ulnar and radially deviate your wrist (move your wrist up and down).

Wrist Circles:

  • Perform two to three sets of 10 repetitions each, two to three times a day.

Forearm AROM Exercises:

  • Pronate and supinate (rotate palm up and palm down with elbow bent at 90 degrees at side).
  • Perform two to three sets of 10 repetitions each, two to three times a day.

Elbow AROM Exercises:

  • Flex and extend (bend up and bend down) your elbow through a full range of motion.
  • Perform two to three sets of 10 repetitions, two to three times a day.

Wrist Stretches:

  • With your elbow bent at the side and your thumb facing the ceiling, lightly bend your wrist into a flexed position and hold for 15 seconds.
  • Complete five stretches.
  • Next, with your elbow bent and palm facing the floor, stretch the wrist back into an extension and hold for 10 to 15 seconds, completing five stretches.
  • Or, press your palms into each other in a praying manner and slowly bring your hands down, stretching your wrists into an extension. This is known as the “prayer stretch.”
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