From typing on your computer to texting on your smartphone, your hands and wrists get almost non-stop action every day. And while you might think to try some lower-back stretches or some shoulder rolls when you’re feeling tight or stiff, when was the last time you thought about wrist stretches or hand stretches? Like stretching before bed or incorporating morning stretches into your day, you might want to make hand and wrist stretches more of a habit: It turns out, there’s good reason to do so.
Your hands and wrists are made up of numerous muscles, and just like other muscles in the body (including those foot muscles), they’re prone to chronic conditions from almost constant use.
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“They’re used more frequently than other muscles in the body,” says Austin Martinez, M.S., A.T.C., C.S.C.S., director of education for StretchLab in Irvine, Calif. Plus, because these muscles and their associated tendons are bunched up next to each other, repetitive motion can cause various conditions to develop over time, including carpal tunnel syndrome, golfer’s elbow, and tennis elbow. But research shows that consistent stretching exercises can improve mobility and performance and decrease risk of injury, Martinez says.
Fortunately, you can do simple wrist stretches and hand stretches that don’t draw much attention to what you’re doing, so you can do them anywhere (yes, even at work). Martinez recommends stretching hands and wrists at least two to three times a day, perhaps while sitting at your desk, after a workout, and before you go to bed. Follow his five-stretch sequence below, holding each stretch at least 30 seconds, for looser, happier hands and wrists.
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Wrist extension with elbow extended
Extend your right arm in front of you, palm up with fingers pointing toward the ground. With your left hand, gently pull the fingers on your right hand back toward your body. Switch sides and repeat.
Extend your right arm in front of you, palm down with fingers pointing toward ground. Using your left hand, gently pull the fingers on your right hand toward your body. Switch sides and repeat.
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Wrist extension with elbow bent
From a seated position, bend your right elbow and place it on your right leg. With your right palm facing up (as if holding a bowl of soup), pull your fingers gently toward the ground with your left hand. Switch sides and repeat.
Using your left hand, place your fingers between the index and middle finger on your right hand and gently spread those fingers apart. Continue this sequence with each of the fingers on the right hand, stretching the tiny muscles that connect the fingers. Switch hands and repeat.
Start with your right palm facing up…