Preventing Injury: 8 Best Hand and Wrist Exercises for Computer Users

Each year, hundreds of thousands of office workers are being disabled by RSI and Motion related inquires to the hands and arms, according to an article in the New York Times. Computer users for example spend most of their time repeating the same motion such as typing at the keyboard, maneuvering the mouse, and swiping on touchscreens. These seemingly innocent gestures when done thousands of times a day are precisely what lead to disabilities such as carpal tunnel and musculoskeletal disorders. Left untreated, many people can become unemployable as a result.

Dr. Vic Weatherall at Advanced Chiropractic tells us the most common types of injuries sustained by computer users at the workplace:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Repetitive Stress or Repetitive Motion Injuries (RSI)
  • “Mouse shoulder”
  • “Computer Back” (Posterior cervical dorsal syndrome)
  • Lumbar sprains and strains
  • Tennis elbow
  • Disc injuries

A study performed by Rempel, Kier, and Bach in 2008 paints a particular grim picture of the strains on the hands and fingers poised by the modern workplace. They concluded that any computer work done for more than twenty hours a week endangered the user to hand and wrist issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Evidence of the Benefits of Hand Exercises for Your Health

There is some evidence supporting the use of exercise — such as minor strength training, yoga, and massage — in the curing of mild RSI and CTS. According to a study by Ünver and Akyolcu in 2011 performed on Hemodialys patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, grip strength and general physical examination scores improved in approximately 21% of patients within the first month and 34% of patients by the third month. It was concluded that hand exercises such as using a exercise ball should be considered as a practical treatment for Hemodialys patients with mild CTS before other more invasive treatments are sought.

Evidence also exists to show the efficacy of hand splints and hand exercises in the treatment of CTS. In a study involving two groups of patients, statistically significant improvement was seen with CTS in both groups- one wearing a hand splint nightly for 4 weeks, the other practicing nerve and tendon gliding exercises in addition.

Increasingly number of clinics, such as the Miller Health Care Institute at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Medical Center, use a combination of non surgical procedures, including hand exercises, to treat serve hand and wrist injuries in white collar workers [1]. The regime includes everything from ample rest, splints worn at night to keep the patients’ wrists straight, to specific exercises that strengthen, relax, and stretch their arms and hands.

It seems for computer users that spend a lot of time of time on the computer, simple hand exercises can be effective in warding off or even treating mild hand and wrist injuries. It’s free, simple to perform, and takes very little time.

8 Great Hand and Wrist Exercises Computer Users should Practice

Let’s dive into 8 of the most effective hand exercises you should perform daily if you spend any time typing or using the mouse.

1. Shake It Out

Shake it Out Hand Exercise

All images (c)- ErgonomicTrends

Shaking out your wrist and hands after staying in the same position for a while is a great way to reintroduce blood flow and relieve stiff joints:

  1. Begin with your hands out in front of you and palms facing the floor
  2. Slowly shake your hands by letting your wrist go limp
  3. Continue for 10-15 seconds
  4. Repeat up to three times

2. Fist to Fan

Hand Exercises- Fist to FanThe Fist to Hand stretch is an excellent method of stretching out the whole hand. This helps to alleviate joint and muscle stiffness:

  1. Begin with your hands in front of you and palms facing downwards
  2. Make a fist with both hands
  3. Open the fist half way so your finger are bent at the knuckles. Hold for two seconds.
  4. Open your hands fully so all five fingers are straight and spread wide apart. Hold for 2 seconds.
  5. Re-make a fist, and repeat routine again.
  6. Repeat for routine for five times

3. Thumb Touches

Hand Exercises- Thumb TouchesThumb touches help to increase coordination in the thumb and forefingers, and also help to reintroduce blood flow back to the area:

  1. Hold your hands outwards with your palms facing the ceiling
  2. With your right hand, slowly bring your thumb to touch the tip of every finger
  3. Repeat on the other hand
  4. Return to the starting position
  5. Repeat five times with both hands

4. Basic Wrist Stretch

Hand Exercises- Wrist StretchThe basic wrist stretch is an excellent way to alleviate stiff joints in the wrist, especially after long days of typing and writing:

  1. Hold your right hand out in front of you with the palm facing upwards
  2. Grip all four fingers with your opposing hand
  3. Gently pull the fingers down towards the floor
  4. Hold the stretch for ten seconds, then release the hand back to the starting position
  5. Repeat with the left hand, holding for ten seconds
  6. Repeat the exercise five times

5. Thumb Flexion and Extension

Hand Exercises- Thumb Flexion and ExtensionThe Thumb Flexion and Extension stretch is a great way to target the thumb specifically, which can grow stiff during long work days:

  1. Begin with your hands out in front of you and with your palms facing outwards
  2. Slowly extend the thumb across the palm until you feel a stretch
  3. Hold this stretch for ten seconds, then release back to the starting position
  4. Repeat this stretch ten times with both hands

6. Wrist Flexion and Extension I

Hand Exercises- Wrist Flexion and ExtensionsThe Wrist Flexion and Extension Stretch is a direct way to stretch the wrist, which can help to increase blood flow to the whole area and ward off issues like carpal tunnel and RSI.

  1. Begin in a seated position with both feet flat on the floor
  2. Rest your one arm at the edge of your desk, with your palm facing downwards and entire hand dangling off the edge. Cushion your wrist with a small towel if it feels more comfortable.
  3. Gently stretch your hand at the wrist upwards towards the ceiling until you feel a stretch
  4. Hold this stretch for fifteen seconds, then release back to the starting position
  5. Then, gently flex the hands at the wrist again downwards towards the floor until you feel a stretch
  6. Repeat the stretch three times in both directions.
  7. Switch hands and repeat with other hand.

7. Wrist Flexion and Extension II

Hand Exercises- Wrist Flexion and Extensions IIThis wrist Extension Stretch is a great way to stretch the entire arm all at once. It can also help to relieve stiff joints and increase awareness to the area:

  1. Begin in a seated or standing position with both feet flat on the floor
  2. Raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor in front of you and with your palms facing downwards
  3. Bend your wrist downwards, with the fingers loosely closed to form a “claw”. Feel the stretch in your wrists.
  4. Hold this stretch for ten seconds
  5. Then, with fingers open and loosely together, flex your wrists upwards, as if you’re a traffic cop telling cars to stop. Feel the stretch in your wrists and forearms this time.
  6. Hold this stretch for ten seconds
  7. Return to the starting position
  8. Repeat five times with both hands

8. Grip Strengthening

Hand Exercises- Grip Strengthening

Image Copyright: xfitness

Strengthening your grip is an excellent way to increase your overall hand and forearm strength. Working on your grip also strengthens your wrist muscles, helping protect it from RSI (repetitive strain injuries).

  1. Begin in a seated position, with your right arm supported by a table
  2. Start by holding a hand gripper or stress ball
  3. Squeeze and release the gripper using all four fingers and thumb in rapid succession
  4. Repeat for at least 10 – 15 times. Feel the stretch in your bottom of your forearm.
  5. Repeat with the other hand

Start Taking a Proactive Approach

Within the last forty years, labor has shifted from manual to technological. Those who once pulled and shifted heavy loads in factories and warehouses are now typing upon keyboards at cubicle desks. While this break from hard, manual labor is celebratory for our spinal columns, the modern day worker instead have to contend with significant pain in their hands and wrists.

There is enough evidence on the benefits of hand exercises that you should start incorporating them into your daily routine. Just a few minutes a day can alleviate pain and onset ailments, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive motion injuries, or work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Combined with a good ergonomic mouse and keyboard, you can greatly reduce the chances of developing carpal tunnel and other crippling RSI injuries to your hands.