Exercises for Wrist Drop

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Strength and flexibility exercises can help reduce the symptoms of wrist drop.
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Wrist drop is a condition caused by compression of the radial nerve. If you've been advised to do physical therapy for wrist drop, here are some wrist drop exercises that can help with the healing process.

Read more: Normal Range of Motion of the Wrist

What Causes Wrist Drop?

Fairview Health Services explains that the radial nerve is one of the three nerves that travel down your arm, carrying signals from your brain to your hand. The radial nerve enables your wrist to bend backward and controls the movement of your tricep muscles. An August 2016 study published in the journal EFORT Open Reviews notes the radial nerve is the most frequently injured nerve in the upper limb.

Sleeping with your arm trapped under your body or being in another position that puts pressure on the radial nerve for a long period of time can cause it to get compressed, says Fairview Health Services. Another common cause of the injury is the use of crutches, since they can put a lot of pressure on the nerve. Wearing a tight bracelet or watch that constricts your wrist for a long time can also result in radial nerve compression.

You should see your doctor if you suspect you might have wrist drop, to seek the proper diagnosis and treatment. A small study published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Korean Neurosurgical Society found that although the initial symptoms of this condition are serious and wrist drop's healing time may be several weeks, the condition generally has a good prognosis.

Read more: Why Do My Wrists Hurt So Much After Lifting Weights?

Wrist Drop Exercises

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggests some exercises that can help reverse the nerve compression and relieve the pain and tenderness in your wrist. It is recommended that you do them for at least six to 12 weeks, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. You should check with your doctor to ensure they are safe for you to do.

Move #1: Wrist Extension Stretch

  1. Hold your injured arm straight out in front of you, but avoid locking your elbow.
  2. Bend your wrist backward so that your fingers point toward the ceiling, as though you're signaling someone to "stop."
  3. Use your other hand to pull the fingers of your injured hand back toward you, until you feel the stretch on the inside of your forearm.
  4. Hold here for 15 seconds.
  5. Repeat five times.
  6. Do this exercise four times a day.

Move #2: Wrist Flexion Stretch

  1. Hold your injured arm straight out in front of you, but avoid locking your elbow.
  2. Bend your wrist forward so that your fingers point toward the floor.
  3. Use your other hand to pull the fingers of your injured hand back toward you, until you feel the stretch on the outside of your forearm.
  4. Hold here for 15 seconds.
  5. Repeat five times.
  6. Do this exercise four times a day.

Move #3: Wrist Supination

  1. Bend the elbow of your injured hand and keep it close to your body, near your ribs.
  2. Turn your palm upward so that it faces the ceiling.
  3. Use your other hand to turn your forearm further into the palm-up position until you feel the stretch.
  4. Hold here for 15 seconds.
  5. Repeat five times.
  6. Do this exercise four times a day.

Move #4: Radial Nerve Glide

  1. Stand in a comfortable position with your arms by your sides.
  2. Drop the shoulder of your injured arm and stretch your fingers downward.
  3. Rotate your arm inward (your thumb should point toward your body).
  4. With your palm facing the ceiling, flex your wrist.
  5. Tilt your head away from the arm you are stretching.
  6. Keeping your wrist flexed and your head tilted away, raise your arm upward, away from your body.
  7. Hold each of these positions for three to five seconds.
  8. Repeat five to eight times.
  9. Do this exercise two to four times a day.

Read more: 3 Gentle Exercises for Nagging Wrist Pain

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