While I was finishing high school, my mother worked as the manager of a woman’s clothing store in the mall. My mom is intense, and whatever she does, she does with gusto. Unfortunately for her, she would ring in orders on the cash register with the ferocity of a mad concert pianist. This left her with repetitive stress injuries in her wrists, which led to the dreaded diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and ensuing surgery. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome implies that the median nerve that runs through the forearms into the wrist and hands has been compressed and is no longer functioning well.
Having a disorder of the forearms, wrists or hands renders us practically inoperable. If we cannot use our hands, we are severely limited in almost every possible action. I created Yoga Tune Up® so I could help folks like my mom prevent and heal from the many aches and pains that besiege our bodies no matter what we do in life. In fact, the first yoga video I ever made was a holiday gift for my mom.
Now, Mom’s doing great. She loves her stretches and using her computer (and recently discovered Facebook). She’s keeping her wrists and forearms pliable and healthy so that she can “knit some booties” when that day comes!
3 moves for healthy hands, forearms and wrists
The precise moves that occur at our fingertips can be easily compromised if we don’t take care of these precious parts. Here’s three simple ways to make a difference in your own grippers.
1. Prevention = Ambidexterity
Carpal Tunnel is most often found in our dominant hand. A very simple way you can prevent the constant accumulation of stress and strain in your dominant hand and wrist is to start switching little mundane tasks into your opposite hand. For example, if you are right handed and use your computer’s mouse with the right hand, switch it to the left hand. At first it will feel totally exotic, clunky and unnatural, but trust me on this one, it will make a huge difference in your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders AND neck! Get past the awkward first day, and you will forget which hand was dominant in no time.
2. Maintenance = Stretching
When the word “flexibility” is mentioned, most folks think about touching their toes and stretching their hamstrings. But the smaller finer muscles of the body need to remain open, flexible and strong to function well, too.
We are “graspers” by nature, holding onto objects, tools, steering wheels and the like — so the flexors of our forearms are disproportionately tight! To keep the fine flexors of the forearms and wrists supple, they need to have their own stretch series.
This wrist extension stretch can help change the tone in these tissues:
a) Place the palms on the ground or on the edge of a table with the fingertips pointing toward you. If this causes too much stretch, roll up a towel and place underneath the heels of the hands to reduce the angle.
b) After about 15 seconds, begin to lean the forearms away from the palms while increasing the pressure of the palms pressing downward into the floor or table.
c) Finally, begin to carefully peel the palms away from the floor, leaving only the four fingers to press into the floor. Feel the deep stretch throughout the fingers, wrists and palms.
3. Improvement = Exercise
The top of the forearms are even more neglected than the underside of the forearms. The long muscles on the top of the forearm oppose the flexors, and they need to be strengthened in order to balance the overwhelming power of our gripper muscles. I learned this genius dolphin variation pose from Richard Rosen at the Piedmont Yoga Studio last December.
Dolphin Pose with Palms Facing Up:
b) Pike the hips upwards, forming an upside down “V” shape with the body (bend the knees if the hamstrings are very tight).
c) Attempt to press the thumb side of the hand into the floor, and feel the traction and stretch deeply within the muscles of the forearms as the spine extends away from the rooted forearms.
Feel the fresh blood and newfound energy in the top of the forearms after you release the stretch!