Your hands perform a variety of tasks every day, from gripping a steering wheel to typing on a keyboard. These repetitive motions can create weakness and stiffness in your wrists and fingers.
Practicing simple exercises can help prevent injury. Exercises can strengthen your wrists and keep your hands and fingers flexible.
Wrist exercises increase flexibility and help lower the risk of injury. Stretches are recommended as a preventive measure or to ease slight pain. However, they should not be used by people with inflammation or serious joint damage unless recommended by a healthcare professional. This is because, in those cases, exercise could cause more harm to your wrists or hands.
Always speak with your doctor before attempting new stretches or treatments. It’s important to determine the exact cause of your wrist pain first.
There are several easy wrist stretches you can do at your desk at work.
Praying position stretches
- While standing, place your palms together in a praying position. Have your elbows touch each other. Your hands should be in front of your face. Your arms should be touching each other from the tips of your fingers to your elbows.
- With your palms pressed together, slowly spread your elbows apart. Do this while lowering your hands to waist height. Stop when your hands are in front of your belly button or you feel the stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat.
- Extend one arm in front of you at shoulder height.
- Keep your palm down, facing the floor.
- Release your wrist so that your fingers point downward.
- With your free hand, gently grasp your fingers and pull them back toward your body.
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
To stretch in the opposite direction:
- Extend your arm with your palm facing up toward the ceiling.
- With your free hand, gently press your fingers down toward the floor.
- Gently pull your fingers back toward your body.
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Repeat both stretches with the other arm. You should cycle through the stretches two or three times with each arm.
- While seated, place your open hands on your thighs with palms up.
- Close your hands slowly into fists. Do not clench too tightly.
- With your forearms touching your legs, raise your fists off of your legs and back toward your body, bending at the wrist.
- Hold for 10 seconds.
- Lower your fists and slowly open your fingers wide.
- Repeat 10 times.
Building wrist strength can also help you prevent injury. There are several exercises you can use to build strength—whether you’re at home or in the office.
- While seated, place your palms face up under a desk or table.
- Press upwards against the bottom of the desk.
- Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
This exercise builds strength in the muscles that run from your wrists to your inner elbows.
Tennis ball squeeze
- Squeeze a tennis ball or stress ball firmly for 5 to 10 seconds.
This should not be painful. However, it should allow you to strengthen your wrists.
- Make a fist and point your thumb up, as if you’re giving a thumbs-up sign.
- Create resistance with your thumb and hand muscles to keep your thumb from moving.
- Gently pull back on your thumb with your free hand.
- Hold and repeat.
- Make a fist and point your thumb up.
- Create resistance with your thumb and hand muscles to try and keep your thumb pointing up toward the ceiling.
- Use your free hand to gently push the thumb forward.
- Hold and repeat.
Yoga is a great way to strengthen your wrists and hands. Several yoga-inspired hand and wrist exercises are listed below.
- Interlace your fingers in front of your body.
- Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, move your interlaced hands in a figure eight motion.
- Allow your wrists to rotate fully so that each hand is alternately on top of the other.
- Perform this exercise for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Rest, and then repeat.
- While seated, lift your arms over your head and interlace your fingers with your palms together.
- With your fingers interlaced, turn your palms up until they are facing the ceiling. You can keep your arms slightly bent or straighten them.
- Hold the stretch.
- Bring your arms down, and then repeat.
This exercise stretches the muscles in the forearms and hands. It also increases flexibility and boosts circulation.
This exercise is adapted from Eagle pose.
- Extend your arms forward, parallel to the floor.
- Cross your right arm over your left, with the right arm on top.
- Bend your elbows.
- Place your right elbow into the crook of the left. The backs of your hands should be touching.
- Move your right arm right and your left arm left. The thumb of your right hand should pass by the little finger of your left. Your palms should be facing each other.
- Press your palms together, lift your elbows up, and stretch the fingers. They should be pointed toward the ceiling.
- Resist the urge to lift your shoulders as you lift your arms.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
You can minimize or even avoid pain in your hands with a few simple stretches. First ask your doctor whether these stretches are safe for you, especially if you have an injury. Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, don’t hesitate to take some time each day to perform these stretches, especially if you have a job that requires hours of typing at the keyboard. Your hands will thank you!
From our expert
Q: What types of conditions may be improved by these stretches?
A: Some common conditions affecting the wrist and hand are carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar tunnel syndrome, and sprains/tendonitis of the muscles that flex and extend the wrist, fingers, and thumb. Daily stretching can help prevent these issues from occurring.
— Gregory Minnis, DPT
Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.