Perhaps it creeps up after a long day of typing at your desk. Or maybe you feel the pain after a round of tennis or planks at the gym.
Regardless when you feel it, many of us battle wrist pain at some point or another.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, carpal tunnel syndrome (a pinched nerve in the wrist) impacts 4 to 10 million Americans. Pain in your wrists, arms or hands can also be a sign of tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendons that connect your muscles to your bones. In addition to issues like carpal tunnel and tendinitis, injuries like fractures and sprains may also require medical attention. So if you frequently feel pain in your wrists or hands, it's worth making an appointment with your doctor to see if you're suffering from one of these issues.
But many of us simply experience discomfort or fatigue when we place a lot of stress on our wrists during certain activities. Repetitive motions are a major culprit, whether at work if you do an assembly-line type job or type on a keyboard all day, or through your hobbies if you enjoy activities like skiing, baseball, or even gardening. Keep in mind that repetitive exercise movements, like planks, holding dumbbells or cables improperly, or doing one-handed exercises like a side plank can also cause pain.
If everyday activities are leaving your wrists and hands achy, taking time to stretch throughout the day can help relieve the discomfort.
Stretching the wrist flexors is important if you want to prevent or treat wrist issues, says Lara Heimann, physical therapist and creator of LYT Style Yoga. "Because we spend so much of our day with our wrist in a flexed position, such as when we are driving a car, holding a phone, or typing on a computer, we must counter the shortening of the connective tissues (like the tendons) with stretching in extension," she says. "Stretching keeps the tissues from getting pulled asymmetrically, which causes strain, a key ingredient for repetitive stress injury. If these stretches are done consistently, they will be a preventative measure to combat tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. "
Here are some gentle movements that you can perform daily to help relieve and prevent pain in the wrists and hands.
Reach your right arm out in front of you with the palm open wide. Then turn the palm down so that the fingertips are reaching down towards the ground. Use your left hand to pull your right fingertips and thumb down to stretch the palm and bottom of the wrist. Hold for a few counts, and then switch hands.
You can do the same stretch on your hands and knees. Line up your knees underneath your hips, then place your palms on the ground underneath your shoulders. Turn the right hand to the right so that the fingers are reaching towards your knees and the wrist crease is reaching towards the front of the mat. Lean back to feel a stretch in the back of the wrist, and hold for a few breaths. Then switch to the left wrist.
Straighten your right arm out in front of you. Bend the hand down so that the fingertips are pointing down. Then use your left hand to pull the top of your hand and fingertips down further to feel a stretch on the top of your wrist. Hold for 2 counts, then release. Repeat 5 times, then switch hands.
You can do the same stretch on your hands and knees. Line up your knees underneath your hips, and then place your hands on the ground underneath your shoulders. Flip the right hand over so that the top of the hand is down on the ground with the fingertips reaching towards your knees. Gently put pressure on the hand by shifting back to stretch the front of the hand and wrist. Hold for a few breaths, and then switch to the left hand.
On your right hand, touch your right thumb to your pinky finger, then release. Touch your thumb to your ring finger, then release. Repeat with your middle finger and index finger. Do the same with your left hand. Repeat this 10 times and exaggerate the touch and release each time with each finger.
Press your hands together at the center of your chest with your elbows out to the sides. Start with your index fingers pressed together as high as your lips, and then keep the palms pressing together as you move the hands down the center of your body to your belly button. Then release the hands and start over. Repeat this 10 times.
Stephanie Mansour is a health and fitness expert and weight-loss coach for women. She is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and Pilates instructor. She has a BA in Communications with an emphasis on Women's Studies and Psychology from the University of Michigan.