Exercises for Wrist Tendonitis

Senior with painful arm
A woman is with her therapist exercising her wrist. (Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images)

Tendonitis occurs when a tendon, which attaches muscle to bone, becomes inflamed from overuse. Wrist tendonitis, also known as de Quervain's disease, is related to overuse or repetitive motions such as typing. Wrist exercises help strengthen your wrists as you recover from the inflammation. Perform wrist exercises after the initial pain has subsided. If any wrist exercise causes you pain, stop immediately.

Wrist Stretches

Gently roll your wrists clockwise for 15 seconds, then reverse direction. Go as far into the full range of motion as you can, feeling the stretch as you do so. Another stretch is to hold one hand out with the palm up and, with your other hand, gently ease your fingers backwards in the direction of your elbow, feeling the stretch through your palm and inner wrist. Release, then turn your hand over so the palm is down. Again gently pull your fingers toward your elbow, feeling the stretch over the back of your hand and top of your wrist.

Thumb Stretch

Make a thumbs-up with one hand. With the other hand, gently press the base of the thumb forward -- don't pull backward on the thumb tip. This stretch is especially helpful if you regularly type or text message on a wireless device, since repetitive motion is one cause of wrist tendonitis.

Flexion Exercises

Wrist flexion is when you pivot your wrist downward so that your palm moves closer to the inside of your arm. For flexion exercises, begin with your hand outstretched and in line with your forearm, palm down. Keeping your forearm still, lower your hand so your fingers move to point toward the ground. Go as far as your wrist and hand allow without pain, then raise your hand back to the starting position. Repeat five to 10 times.

Extension Exercises

Wrist extension is the opposite of wrist flexion -- moving your wrist so that the back of your hand approaches the top of your arm. Wrist extension exercises begin in the same position as the wrist flexion exercises. Again keeping your forearm still, raise your hand so your fingers move to point toward the ceiling. Go as far as you can without pain, then return to the starting position. Repeat five to 10 times.

Tendon Gliding Exercises

HandHealthResources.com recommends tendon gliding exercises -- not to build strength, but to improve lubrication in the tendons for greater ease of motion. Start with a flat hand. Touch your fingertips to the top of your palm -- or as close as you can get -- then release. Touch your fingertips to the center of your palm, then release. Then touch your fingertips to the bottom of your palm and release. For your thumb, move it back from your palm as if you're hitch-hiking, then try to touch the base of your pinky finger. Do all of these slowly and gently, and repeat up to 10 times.

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