5 Ways to fix wrist and elbow pain

When it comes to mobility, our forearms often get the short end of the stick -- any stretching they get seems to be purely incidental. We diligently foam roll our quads and IT bands, so why not pay the same amount of attention to smaller muscle groups like our forearms? After all, forearm muscles have the important job of controlling the motion of our wrists and hands, the most valuable tools we have!

 

Even if your forearm strength isn’t exactly a life or death matter (like it might be for a rock climber), you should still stretch and exercise your forearms regularly. Why? Because weak forearms can make you prone to overuse injuries and tendonitis just from doing the tasks you have to do on a daily basis.

 

You may have heard of the term “repetitive strain injury” -- it’s the kind of injury sustained from performing the same movements repeatedly. It commonly manifests itself as inflammation of the hands, wrists, or elbows from activities like typing, driving, or even golfing.

 

For example, when you hold your hands above the keyboard as you type throughout the work day, your fingers remain in flexion for a sustained period of time. Or when you grip and swing a golf club for 18 holes every weekend, your forearm remains in constant flexion. Holding a joint in any one position too often or for too long, as in these examples, causes painful inflammation, stiffness and potentially numbness. And to add insult to injury, when we try not to move an inflamed and painful joint, the lack of movement can cause even more stiffness and pain, defeating the purpose entirely!

 

Luckily, preventatively stretching and strengthening our forearms helps prevent repetitive strain injuries and the stiffness that comes with them. If you’re looking to nip repetitive strain in the bud, try out these five simple forearm exercises. They utilize resistance, flexion, and extension to build strength and can be done anytime, anywhere.

 

The first exercise strengthens the several muscles on the underside (palm side) of your forearm that allow you to perform wrist flexion -- that is, to curl your palm in toward your arm.

 

1. Wrist Flexion

 

 

 

  • Grasp a light weight in right hand

  • With palm facing toward you, place right forearm on thigh (parallel with thigh)

  • Keeping the forearm pinned to your thigh, curl the weight toward you for a slow count of 3, hold at the top for 3, then slowly release for 3

  • Repeat this sequence 10 times then switch to left arm

  • Perform 3-5 sets per hand

 

 

 

 

The counter movement to wrist flexion is wrist extension, which means bringing the back of the hand toward the forearm. You use this movement when you hold your bodyweight in a plank position or hold a barbell in the front squat position.

 

2. Wrist Extension

 

 

 

 

  • Grasp a light weight in right hand

  • With palm facing away from you, place right forearm on thigh (parallel with thigh)

  • Keeping the forearm pinned to your thigh, Flex your knuckles toward you for a slow count of 3, hold at the top for 3, then slowly release for 3

  • Repeat this sequence 10 times then switch to left arm

  • Perform 3-5 sets per hand

 

 

 

Next, is the squeeze and release exercise, which helps improve grip strength by working three muscles in the forearm and seven muscles in the hand. Having a strong grip helps alleviate inflammation in the hands and makes everyday tasks easier, like gripping and carrying heavy bags of groceries.

 

3 .Squeeze & Release

 

 

 

 

  • Grasp a tennis ball or balled-up towel in right hand

  • Squeeze for 5 seconds, then release

  • Repeat 10 times then switch to left hand

  • Perform 3-5 sets per hand

 

 

 

 

 

The final exercise stretches the small muscles between the fingers, alleviating stiffness caused by activities like using a computer mouse for long periods of time. And as a bonus, it’s pretty relaxing!

 

 

 

4. Spread & Release

 

 

 

 

  • Wrap a rubber band or hair elastic around the fingers of your right hand (use multiple bands for increased resistance)

  • Starting in a “lobster claw” position, spread your fingers apart against the resistance of the band; hold for 5 seconds, then release

  • Repeat 10 times then switch to left hand

  • Perform 3-5 sets per hand

 

 

 

 

 

5. Forearm Rolling

 

 

 

 

To complement these four exercises, we also recommend rolling out your forearms with a mobility peanut or two tennis balls taped together in a peanut shape. If you don’t have either of those, another firm rounded object -- like a rolling pin or even a can of soup -- will work as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To roll out your forearm, place your mobility tool of choice on a tabletop, then use your bodyweight to press your forearm into the tool and slowly roll along the length of the muscles. If you notice a sore spot, press and hold for a few extra seconds before you move on. You can roll either side (palm side and knuckle side) of your forearm with this method.

 

 

 

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Today’s the day to stop overlooking your forearms when you’re working on your mobility! At work or play, almost everything you do utilizes your forearms, so it’s time you showed them a little TLC. Whether you have tennis elbow or “texter’s thumb” (yes, it’s a thing), or you simply want to prevent these kinds of repetitive strain injuries, these forearm exercises will help.

 

Which of these exercises will you try first?

 

Bonus question: Have you ever DIYed your own mobility tool like our suggestion to tape tennis balls together? Tell us about your best MacGyver moment in the comments!