Keep carpal tunnel at bay

Hand stretches to help avoid carpal tunnel pain

As many of us return from vacation and buckle down to work, we think it’s a good time to review six stretches that can help to avoid carpal tunnel issues. Give them a try and let us know what you think.

Any repetitive activity can put you at risk for injury.

Computer users–and that includes editors and writers–are at risk for repetitive stress injuries and should take regular breaks to stretch. Here are some exercises that I’ve found helpful. They can be done in just a few minutes. I recommend doing them throughout your workday as a preventive measure.

On deadline? Breathe deeply while you do these. I promise you’ll be more focused and better able to meet your target afterward.

6 SIMPLE STRETCHES

  1. Stand up and roll your shoulders backward 10 times and then forward 10 times. Repeat.
  2. Then extend your arms out to the side. Flex your hands (fingers point toward ceiling) and roll them backward 10 times and forward 10 times. Repeat, provided there is no pain.
  3. Lift your arms up overhead, palms facing inward. Slowly lower them to your side and then slowly raise them back overhead. Repeat this with your hands flexed up toward the ceiling. If this feels good, continue a few more times.
  4. Touch your fingers to your thumb. Place a rubber band around your fingers and thumb and slowly open and close the rubber band. Repeat 10 times on each hand.
  5. Take one hand and apply gentle traction to the other hand, flexing it away from your body. Take deep breaths while holding the stretch. Repeat with the opposite hand.
  6. You can also flex a finger at a time and breathe into each finger. And if it does not cause pain, you can extend the hand toward your body and breathe into your wrist, repeating with the opposite hand, holding each of these for several seconds.

YOGA, ANYONE?

If you don’t already have a steady yoga practice, I recommend giving it a try. An Iyengar instructor would be great for a beginner. Practitioners of Iyengar yoga are alignment savvy, and your instructor will be sure to be watchful over you to avoid injury. You also get to use really cool props like blankets and yoga bricks, which make for a gentler experience on the mat.

Over the years, I’ve learned to customize my time on the mat to alleviate pain and prevent further injury.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the following poses, you may want to visit yogajournal.com and do a search for an illustrated, step-by-step demonstration of each asana.

However, I strongly recommend practicing with a good teacher initially to prevent injury and to learn good alignment. If you already have an injury, be sure to let your teacher know. Adjustments can always be made to your level of comfort and experience on the mat.

For example, when in Warrior II, I turn my palms up instead of down. I then flex my hands (fingers pointing toward the floor) and breathe into the pose as I lunge deeper. Give this a try. Hold for as long as you can and be sure to repeat on the other side, taking care not to lock your arms.

Make friends with Downward-Facing Dog. Stay until your arms shake, and the blood flows to your head. Hold for as long as comfortable. Your body will thank you by staying healthy and limber, which can prevent injury.

In Warrior I, try the same exercise with your arms that I mentioned earlier: Palms facing inward, slowly lower your arms to your side and raise them back up. Repeat with flexed hands.

The key is to go slowly with each pose. You’re on the mat. Relish the experience. If you’re in a yoga class and your teacher questions what you’re doing, just say you are stretching tense muscles. This may inspire the teacher to introduce new postures or customize existing ones for your benefit.

EASY DOES IT.

Never practice—or work—to the point of pain. There is a balance between finding your edge and going past it. Try to avoid the latter—both on and off the mat.

Diana Ceres is an editor and devoted yogini. This post was originally published in 2011, and has been updated. 

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