Your wrists, hands and forearms can develop stiffness and weakness from either overuse or injury. Stretching and strength exercises for the muscles and connective tissues that flex and extend your wrists and hands can help alleviate pain, and improve mobility and strength in joints, according to the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York City.
Your forearms, wrists and hands contain muscles and connective tissues — called fasciae — that flex and extend your wrists and hands. The extensor muscles, including the extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis and extensor carpi ulnaris, lie on the posterior side of your arm. The flexor muscles, including the flexor carpi radialis and pronator teres, lie on the anterior side of your arm. Each group pulls on the tendons that attach to the wrist and hand bones to flex or extend the wrist.
According to Thomas Myers, author of "Anatomy Trains," your wrist flexors and extensors are surrounded by a continuous sheath of fasciae that wraps around your blood vessels, nerves, bones, tendons and ligaments. These fasciae run from your shoulder through your arm and end at your fingers. Their elasticity and structure dictate how much range of motion and strength your arm and hands have.
Types of Stretches
Static stretching involves holding a muscle or joint for a specific duration, usually about 30 seconds, according to physical therapist Chris Frederick, co-author of "Stretch to Win." Dynamic stretching involves moving a muscle or joint to its full range of motion in a controlled, repetitive pattern. You should perform dynamic stretching before exercising to stimulate muscles and increase tissue extensibility, and do static stretching after exercising to cool your body down and alleviate tight muscles.
Physical therapists and exercise professionals use wrist flexor and extensor exercises to treat various injuries and neuromuscular disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and post-surgery procedures, according to NISMAT. Stretching exercises can alleviate pinched nerves in your forearms while reducing the amount of nerve impulses going into the muscles that causes the pinching. Strength exercises stimulate weak muscles and joints and minimize injuries to your hand, arm and shoulder during exercise.
The palm press stretches your flexors and strengthens your extensors. Stand with your palms together, and point your fingers in front of you. Slowly bring your hands toward your chest as you push your palms together tightly. This prevents your hands from slipping and stimulates contraction in your extensors and stretches your flexors. Hold the stretch for three deep breaths and return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise five times.
The wall backhand press stretches your extensors and strengthens your flexors. Stand with your right side of your body facing a wall, and place the back of your hand against it with your fingers pointing down. Push gently against the wall until your feel a stretch in the top part of your forearm. Maintain good posture as you hold this stretch for five deep breaths. Repeat the exercise on your left arm. Frederick recommends that you perform both stretches three to five times daily.
Perform wrist flexor and extensor exercises while standing rather than sitting, Frederick recommends. This helps to improve your posture, and strengthens your hips and spine.