Physio Wrist Exercises

Updated July 20, 2017

Wrists, like the other joints of the body, must be maintained in strong and supple condition. Wrists are in constant use throughout the day, and if pain arises or an injury occurs, simple daily tasks can become awkward and painful.

The wrist is susceptible to fractures, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and repetitive strain injuries (RSI). This is not an exhaustive list of how the joint can be affected, so it is important to ensure that wrist exercises are practised, especially after injury or inflammation, to restore strength and mobility.

Wrist Exercises: Arm in a Sling

Clinical specialist physiotherapist David Wales explains on the Physio Room website that symptoms affecting the wrist can be alleviated in the short term with hot wax baths and mobilisation exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist. These include the following exercises, which can also be practised if the arm is in a sling:

TBPI Group website advises keeping the arm steady, and not moving the arm away from the body. The significance of doing wrist exercises is to retain as much mobility and flexibility as possible, even if the entire arm is out of use due to injury or ailment.

1) Make a loose fist with the left hand and cup it in the palm of the right hand. Use the right hand to flex the left wrist up, holding for 30 seconds. Repeat with opposite hands.

2) Holding the left wrist straight and extending into the straightened fingers, flex the wrist left toward the little finger, then right toward the thumb. Hold each position for 30 seconds, then repeat on the right hand.

3) Bend the wrist at a 90-degree angle so that the fingertips are pointing forward, and straighten the wrist with the opposite hand. Repeat on alternate sides.

Wrist Exercises: Wrist in a Sling

If the wrist is also encased in a sling, it is important to maintain communication between the muscles, tendons and ligaments that connect the fingers to the wrist, and up through the arms.

1) On the left hand, bend each finger at the mid-knuckle and flex it upward and downward with the other hand. Repeat on the right hand.

2) Repeat point 1 above, this time holding the fingers at the knuckle nearest the fingertips and flexing each of them in turn.

The Physio Advisor website warns that these exercises should be performed only as long as they do not cause increased or excessive pain. They should also not be performed on consecutive days, to give the muscles and tendons time to recover.

Exercises Using Resistance Aids

These exercises are suitable for chronic wrist complaints such as carpal tunnel syndrome (which affects the median nerve that runs from the forearm to the hand) and repetitive strain injury (RSI).

1) Squeeze a tennis ball as hard as is comfortable, hold for five seconds, and repeat the exercise ten times.

2) A resistance band can also be used -- it is advised to ask a physiotherapist or fitness instructor for a demonstration so that the technique is correct.

The Physio Room website also lists wrist and hand strengthening equipment such as "the Digiflex hand and grip strengthener, hand therapy balls, and therapeutic putty." These are all excellent aids to maintaining strength and coordination between the hand and the wrist.

If the symptoms worsen within days, or do not improve within 4-6 weeks, consult your doctor for a referral to a physiotherapist.

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About the Author

Nicole O'Driscoll has been writing since 2000. She is published in "The James Joyce Bloomsday Centenary Collection" and has written about social exclusion and incarceration in Samuel Beckett's "Trilogy." O'Driscoll is a qualified nurse who manages a mental-health crisis house. She holds a doctorate in English literature from Newcastle University.