Strength Training for Nerve Damage in the Hands & Neck

white collar worker male stretching arms
A man at his desk does a neck turn exercise. (Image: endopack/iStock/Getty Images)

The bundle of nerves that exits the top of the spinal cord extends through the neck, where they branch off and rejoin to form the ulnar and median nerves of the arm and hand. The nerves send messages to the brain to initiate movement and feeling in the muscles and skin. Nerve damage at any point in the network of nerves can cause symptoms at other points, including numbness, loss of strength, tingling and pain. Strength training, which uses resistance to strengthen muscles and build bone density, can alleviate the symptoms of nerve damage and help with recovery from related conditions.

Strength Training

Strength training, also called resistance or weight training, increases strength, bone density, muscle tone and lean body mass. Strength training involves applying resistance to repeated contractions of the muscle. The resistance in strength training is provided by weights, bands or your own body weight. Proper form and the appropriate number of repetitions are important for effective strength training. For nerve damage, strength training can improve movement, decrease pain and help to maintain muscle strength while nerve damage heals. Your doctor might advise against strenuous exercises soon after nerve damage symptoms begin, especially for nerve damage and pain in the neck. Performing slow, gentle range-of-motion exercises for a period can help prepare your body to perform strength-training exercises safely.

Nerve Damage

Muscles spasms or a slipped disk in the spinal column can press on or pinch nerves, causing neck pain and symptoms in the hand or arm. Cumulative trauma disorders, also called repetitive-strain injuries or musculoskeletal disorders, are overuse injuries caused by repetitive movements. The disorders are common in some sports or occupations. Repetitive movements can cause entrapment or compression of the radial, ulnar or median nerve at any point from the neck to the hand. Nerve compression in the wrist or neck can cause pain in the fingers. Tight muscles, misaligned nerves and tissue inflammation around the nerves also can cause nerve damage.

Warming Up

Begin with stretching exercises before performing strength-training exercises. Range-of-motion exercises for the neck involve moving your head side to side and up and down to stretch your neck muscles. Flex and stretch your fingers. Rest your arm on a table and allow your hand to hang off the edge. Flex your wrist to move the hand up and down until you feel the muscles stretch.

Hand Exercises

Items that you grip or squeeze provide the resistance required for strength-training exercises. Use grippers, tennis balls, putty or thick rubber bands stretched across the fingers. Open or close your hands, squeeze the balls or close and release the gripper.

Perform a flexion exercise for the wrist by holding a lightweight item, such as a small can, and placing your forearm on a flat surface, palm of the hand facing up. Curl your wrist inward, hold and release. Use the same hand-held weight to perform an extension exercise by placing the arm on a table, with the palm of the hand facing down. Flex the wrist upward, hold and release. Use a four count for the hold and the release.

Neck Exercises

Strength-training exercises for the neck include variations of the shoulder shrug using hand weights. Perform the dumbbell shrug by standing and placing your feet shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent. With arms hanging at your sides, a weight in each hand, move your shoulders upward as if shrugging. Hold the shrug for one count and repeat the exercise eight to 12 times.

Perform the one-arm row by placing one knee on a bench and one foot on the floor. Bend forward and support your body with one hand on the bench. Hold the weight in your hand with your arm extended toward the floor. Raise the arm until it is parallel with your back. Hold the contraction for one count, lower and repeat. Other exercises using hand weights involve standing and raising both outstretched arms from your sides to shoulder height or bending the arms at the elbow before raising them.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2018 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.