The 10 Best Wrist Stretches to Relieve Aches and Pains

Do these stretches once a day if you're feeling wrist pain.
Image Credit: LaylaBird/iStock/GettyImages

All of that typing, texting and swiping adds up — and often, to wrist pain.

After all, when you force your hands and wrists into weird positions for hours on end, or do the same scrolling motion again and again, all of the tiny tissues in your wrists can get inflamed. And as tendons swell, they can press on each other and restrict each other's movement, according to Cedars-Sinai.

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When left unchecked, this crowding can contribute to nerve issues like carpal tunnel syndrome. Meanwhile, if you have osteoarthritis or a history of cranky joints, tech time just adds to the problem.

Fortunately, doing gentle hand and wrist stretches can help relieve and even prevent pain from building up in the first place, says Sam Chan, DPT, a physical therapist at Bespoke Physical Therapy in New York City.

Case in point: these 10 simple stretches for wrist pain. Add them to your daily routine for lasting joint health.

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Move 1: Wrist CAR

Move 1: Wrist CAR
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Rest your forearm on a surface (or your knee). The inside of your forearm should face the ceiling.
  2. Make a fist with your hand.
  3. Bend your wrist to fold the back of your hand toward the back of your forearm.
  4. Slowly move your wrist in a clockwise circle.
  5. That's 1 rep. Do all reps, then repeat, moving counterclockwise.
  6. Repeat with the other hand.

Tip

This wrist-pain stretch helps improve wrist flexibility and mobility. But you can't just go through the motions for it to work.

"This exercise should feel effortful," Chan says. "You're using the hand muscles and tendons to move your hand through its full available range of motion."

Think about this move as a controlled, deliberate wrist circle.

Move 2: Wrist Flexor Stretch

Move 2: Wrist Flexor Stretch
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
  1. Extend your right arm straight out in front of your body, palm facing up.
  2. Keeping your arm in place, grab your right fingers with your left hand.
  3. Gently pull your fingers down toward the floor. Resist the urge to yank or pull.
  4. Hold, then repeat with the other hand for 1 set.

This move stretches the front of your forearm (your wrist flexor muscles) and fingers.

Move 3: Wrist Extensor Stretch

Move 3: Wrist Extensor Stretch
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
  1. Extend your right arm straight out in front of your body, palm facing down.
  2. Keeping your arm in place, grab your right fingers with your left hand.
  3. Gently pull your fingers down toward the floor.
  4. Hold, then repeat with the other hand for 1 set.

Tip

The reverse of the last move, this exercise relieves tension in the back of your forearm (aka your wrist extensor muscles), Chan says. You want to hit both sides for muscle balance.

Move 4: Prayer Stretch

Move 4: Prayer Stretch
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
  1. Place your palms together at chest height.
  2. Keeping your hands pressed together, slowly bring them down toward your stomach.
  3. Continue lowering your hands down your body until you feel a stretch in your wrists.
  4. Hold, then repeat with the other hand for 1 set.

Tip

This stretch targets the muscles that bend your wrists and fingers, Chan says.

If holding for 30 seconds feels painful, start with just 10 seconds and gradually add more time as you increase your wrist flexibility.

Move 5: Reverse Prayer Stretch

Move 5: Reverse Prayer Stretch
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
  1. Place the backs of your hands together at chest height.
  2. Keeping your hands pressed together, slowly bring them down toward your stomach.
  3. Continue lowering your hands down your body until you feel a stretch in your wrists.
  4. Hold, then repeat with the other hand for 1 set.

Tip

The opposite of the prayer stretch, this move works the muscles that straighten your wrists to give you a well-rounded mobility session.

If your joints feel sensitive, hold the position for just 10 seconds at a time.

Move 6: Finkelstein Stretch

Move 6: Finkelstein Stretch
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
  1. Extend one arm and make a fist around your thumb.
  2. Gently bend your wrist toward your pinky until you feel a stretch across your thumb and the top of your wrist.
  3. Hold, then repeat with the other hand for 1 set.

"This is a good stretch to alleviate pain at the top of the thumb from excessive phone use and texting," Chan says.

Move 7: Tendon Glide

Move 7: Tendon Glide
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Extend one arm with your thumb facing up.
  2. Keeping your fingers straight, point them to the side.
  3. Slowly curl your fingers, moving joint by joint, to make a fist.
  4. Reverse the motion and straighten each joint until your hand is fully straight again.
  5. That's 1 rep. Do all reps, then repeat with the other hand.

Tip

This stretch is great for promoting tendon mobility and motor control, Chan says. For the greatest benefits, exaggerate how you bend each joint, one at a time.

Move 8: Median Nerve Glide

Move 8: Median Nerve Glide
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Extend your arm straight out to the side at shoulder height.
  2. Twist your arm so that your palm faces the ceiling.
  3. Bend your wrist and fingers down toward the floor.
  4. At the same time, tilt your head toward your opposite shoulder. Pause for a few seconds.
  5. That's 1 rep. Do all reps, then switch hands.

"The median nerve is often compressed inside the carpal tunnel and may cause pain in the palm and hand," Chan says. "This is a movement that can promote mobility of the nerve to decrease irritability."

Move 9: Ulnar Nerve Glide

Move 9: Ulnar Nerve Glide
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Extend your arm straight out to the side at shoulder height with your palm facing the floor.
  2. Bend your elbow and bring your hand toward your head.
  3. Bend your wrist to bring the back of your hand toward the back of your forearm.
  4. At the same time, tilt your head toward your opposite shoulder. Pause for a few seconds.
  5. That's 1 rep. Do all reps, then switch hands.

One of the best stretches for wrist pain, this move targets your ulnar nerve. The nerve down the pinky-side of your wrist and hand. When it's aggravated, it can cause elbow, palm or hand pain, according to Chan.

Move 10: Radial Nerve Glide

Move 10: Radial Nerve Glide
Image Credit: Sam Chan/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 2
Reps 10
  1. Extend your arm straight at your side. Your wrist should be in line with your hip.
  2. Turn your wrist to face the ceiling behind you.
  3. Tilt your head to the left.
  4. At the same time, tilt your head toward your opposite shoulder. Pause for a few seconds.
  5. That's 1 rep. Do all reps, then switch hands.

Tip

This wrist stretch can help relieve pain or tingling along your radial nerve in the back of your forearm and hand, Chan says.

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