Is your work or hobby hurting your wrists? If you get carpal tunnel or wrist pain, there are 2 stretches that can make it worse. You might think that stretches are good for your wrists, to relieve muscle tension. But without knowing exactly which stretches are therapeutic for your condition, you could actually be increasing your pain.
Wrist extension and flexion.
When there is not a straight line from your elbow to your fingers, then your wrists are not flat. They are bent, in either a flexed position or an extended position. When the hands are moving downward, they are flexed. When the hands are lifted up, they are extended.
Repetitive Stress Injuries.
When your wrists are kept in one position for too long, you can develop a Repetitive Stress Injury, or RSI. This is usually caused by repetitive movements due to work or hobbies.
Your hand and forearm muscles are also affected. And the surrounding structures, like your joints, connective tissue (fascia), and the carpal tunnel in your wrist, can be shifted out of alignment.
When surrounding tissues are imbalanced, they restrict fascia, nerves, and blood flow. This results in your pain.
Stretches for natural pain relief.
Sure, stretching can loosen muscles and fascia, relieving tension that causes you pain. But it’s important to know which stretches can help, and which can hurt.
Extension movement commonly causes wrist pain and carpal tunnel symptoms. Typing, for example, keeps your wrists slightly extended for long periods of time. This is also common with crafting and construction work. In time, the carpal tunnel shifts out of place, restricting nerves and other tissues. Ouch!
If prolonged wrist extension is causing your pain, then you want to avoid extension stretches. There are 2 ‘bad stretches’ that patients commonly practice, but mistakenly think they are doing themselves good when they are, in fact, doing more harm. Here are the 2 extension stretches to avoid:
1) Reach one arm straight out in front of you. Turn your palm up, as if to tell someone ‘Stop!’ With the other hand, press against the fingertips, pulling them back toward the forearm.
2) Similar to the first stretch, straighten an arm in front of you. Flip your arm over, so the hand is palm-side-up. Using the other hand, press against the fingers, pulling them downward toward the forearm.
Do you see how both of these put the wrist into further extension? If your problem were due to prolonged flexion, then these would be therapeutic. But carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain are more commonly due to prolonged extension.
Until your orthopedist or physical therapist approves them, avoid wrist extension stretches. Instead, work on therapeutic exercises that relieve your pain and correct your imbalances.