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Stretching and exercising the muscles around your wrists will keep the wrists flexible and strong, and help you avoid repetitive motion and stress injuries.

If you’ve had an injury, these stretches and exercises can help you recover your wrist range of motion.

Why it helps

Both stretching and exercising increase the production of synovial fluid, which lubricates your wrist joints and helps improve their function.

Your wrist bones connect your hand to your forearm. Wrist movements are controlled by the forearm muscles. To strengthen your wrists, you’ll work a group of 18 muscles in your forearms, each of which has specific functions.

We’ll start with some simple stretches, which can be done anywhere, with no additional equipment. Then we’ll describe some basic exercises that range from simple to more difficult.

This is a warm-up for stretching or a relaxation break if you’re doing repetitive motions with your hands.

  1. Sit comfortably and bend your arm at the elbow, resting your upper arm on your leg or a table, or hold it with your other hand.
  2. Make a fist, and then flex your hand at the wrist up as far as you can and then down as far as you can comfortably.
  3. Keep the motion smooth and continuous, moving your wrist 10 times back and forth. Move just the wrist, not your arm.
  4. With your hand in the same position, move the wrist to the left as far as you can and then to the right as far as you can comfortably. Again, move the wrist, not your arm.
  5. Keep the motion smooth and continuous, repeating it 10 times.
  6. Repeat with your other hand.

Note that you can also do this holding your hand in the air, with no support under your arm.

This is a simple stretch to loosen up your fingers and hands before you begin exercising. It’s also a good break to relax your wrists and hands if you’re doing repetitive hand motions.

  1. Sit comfortably and bend your arm at the elbow in a right angle.
  2. Make a fist, and then slowly open it spreading and stretching your fingers apart.
  3. Repeat a few times.
  4. Repeat with your other hand.

  1. Stand with your elbows bent and palms together, fingertips pointing up at a level that’s just below your chin.
  2. Lower your hands toward your waist, keeping your hands pressed together and close to your stomach.
  3. When you feel a moderate stretch in the underside of your forearms, hold the pose for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

You’ll feel this stretch more if you can keep your fingers together. Your fingers will likely begin to bend as you move your hands lower.

  1. Stand with your elbows bent and palms together in the same hands-together position as stretch No. 3.
  2. Spread your fingers and thumbs as wide apart as you can. Then move your palms apart and together again, keeping your fingers and thumbs touching. Repeat a few times during the day.

Find variations on this stretch and additional stretches here.

You can do this exercise with any kind of ball, about the size of a tennis ball. Or you can use exercise putty, which comes in soft, medium, and hard strengths.

Shop for exercise putty online.

You can also use a rolled up towel or pool noodle for squeezing.

  1. Sit comfortably and take the ball or putty in your hand, wrapping your fingers and thumb around it.
  2. Squeeze as hard as you can.
  3. Hold the squeeze for 3 to 5 seconds.
  4. Relax your grip slowly.
  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

This exercise is simple, but it works the smaller hand muscles. It’s also one you can do sitting at a desk or anywhere else.

  1. Take an ordinary rubber band, and stretch it around the tops of your fingers and thumb.
  2. Slowly open your hand to stretch against the rubber band, and then slowly close your hand. Keep the motion controlled.
  3. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

This strengthening exercise can be done with a clenched fist or with 1- to 5-pound weights. You can do both arms at the same time or one arm at a time. It depends on your physical strength. You can also use a small food can or water bottle as a weight.

  1. Sit comfortably with your arm resting over your knees. Hold a weight with your palms facing down and your wrist hanging over the knee.
  2. Move your hand up as far as possible and then down as far as possible in a slow and controlled motion.
  3. Do a set of 10, then repeat.
  4. Repeat the exercise, but with your palms facing up.
  5. Once you can do 2 or 3 sets easily, you may want to increase the weight you are using.

You can also do wrist curls with your arm in the air.

Resistance bands are simple and versatile exercise aids. They come in different strengths. If you’re recovering from an injury, start with a light resistance band. But if you’re training for a sport, choose a heavier band.

This works your wrist flexors and extensors.

  1. Sit comfortably, resting your arm on a table with your palm facing down and your hand hanging over the table edge.
  2. Put one end of the resistance band under your foot to hold it down, and hold the other end in your hand. You may have to wrap it around your hand to create some tension.
  3. Pull up against the resistance, extending your wrist as far as you can. Keep the motion smooth and controlled.
  4. Slowly come back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 times.
  6. Repeat with your other hand.

Do the same exercise, but start with your palms facing up.

  1. Sit comfortably with your arms close to your body, bent at right angles.
  2. Hold a band taut with both hands, palms down.
  3. Slowly rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing up, stretching the band.
  4. Keep your arms and elbows in place.
  5. Repeat a few times.

  1. Stand near a wall, with your arms straight, your palms against the wall, and your fingers pointed up.
  2. Keeping your palms against the wall, walk your wrists down the wall as far as you can.
  3. Then turn your hands around so that your fingers are pointed down. With your palms against the wall, walk your wrists back up as far as you can.

Many different types of hand grip strengtheners are available. The basic idea is to use a tool that creates measurable resistance for you to squeeze against.

Grippers come in a variety of tensions. You can start with one that’s only a little difficult to close. When that becomes easy, increase the gripper tension. Grippers range from light to ones requiring 365 pounds of pressure to close.

Shop for hand grippers and exercisers online.

  1. Sit comfortably with your arm bent at a right angle, palm facing in, holding the gripper in one hand.
  2. Squeeze slowly, and release.
  3. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
  4. Only your hand should be moving, not the arm.
  5. Switch hands and repeat.
  6. When you can comfortably do 2 to 4 sets, try a gripper with more tension.

Typing at a computer keyboard or a smaller device can stress your wrists and arms. If you feel tension in your arms, wrists, or hands, examine your workspace to see if you can make it more comfortable.

Consider a keyboard wrist rest to keep your wrist in a neutral position. Make sure your chair, desk, and computer are optimally arranged to maintain good posture and reduce arm and hand tension.

Take regular breaks to stretch. Try lightly massaging your forearms, wrists, and fingers to release tension.

Strong and flexible wrists are important for everyday activities. Whether you’re driving a car, swinging a golf club or a racquet, lifting weights, typing, cooking, or doing anything else with your hands, your wrists are involved.

As with any exercise routine, warm up before you begin.

If you’re just starting out with an exercise routine, try light stretches, exercises without weights, and exercises with light exercise bands. If you’re training for weightlifting or any other sport, use weights and bands appropriate for your strength.

Check with your doctor if you have wrist pain. Depending on the cause, they may refer you for treatment or for professional physical therapy.

Do

  • Make stretching part of your daily routine.
  • Do strengthening exercises three times a week.
  • Take your time with each movement.
  • Try for correct form and steady movements.
  • Most of the stretches can be done without any equipment, sitting at a desk or on the couch.