Normal Range of Motion of the Wrist

Does your wrist hurt when you're typing, writing or working out? Then you may need to do certain exercises to achieve normal wrist range of motion (ROM) and regain your mobility. This delicate joint can easily get injured due to repetitive movements or poor lifting form.

Poor lifting form can hurt your wrists.
Image Credit: Pekic/E+/GettyImages

Structures of the Wrist Joint

Wrist pain is one of the common health complaints among individuals worldwide. Athletes, construction workers, office workers, nurses and other populations are more likely to experience disabling wrist and hand pain, according to a September 2019 report featured in the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Many times, these issues are due to repetitive hand movements, such as typing on a keyboard or hitting a tennis ball.

The wrist consists of three small joints, including the radiocarpal, ulnocarpal and distal radioulnar joints. In general, wrist injuries occur at the joint surface.

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

The median nerve, which passes through the carpal tunnel in your wrist, may get injured too, causing pain, numbness and impaired hand function, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, for example, results from excessive pressure on this nerve. Wrist pain may also be caused by sudden impacts or certain disorders, such as arthritis.

Although there's no surefire way to prevent wrist pain, you may protect this joint by practicing good posture and building bone strength. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking regular breaks from the computer and switching to an ergonomic keyboard.

A diet rich in calcium may help strengthen your bones and reduce injury risk. If you're already in pain, take the steps needed for achieving normal wrist range of motion.

What Is Normal Wrist ROM?

The wrist serves as a bridge between your forearm and your hand. Its movements, including flexion, extension, abduction and adduction, are facilitated by the forearm muscles. Wrist range of motion, though, depends largely on the osseous articulations of the carpal bones, according to a review published in the Journal of Wrist Surgery in August 2014.

Range of motion describes the ability of a joint to perform the movements it is meant for. Physical therapists and other health professionals use a goniometer to measure a joint's position or ROM.

If you can comfortably move your wrist forward, backward and side-to-side, you have normal wrist ROM. According to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, the following values are considered normal:

  • Wrist extension: 60 degrees
  • Wrist flexion: 60 degrees
  • Wrist adduction (ulnar deviation): 30 degrees
  • Wrist abduction (radial deviation): 20 degrees

A joint that cannot move to its full potential has limited ROM. This condition may have a variety of causes, from pain and swelling to neurological disorders.

Stretching and therapeutic exercises may help restore wrist range of motion and flexibility. Connecticut Children's Medical Center recommends a few simple movements that anyone can do at home.

For example, you can squeeze a stress ball or tennis ball with all fingers for three seconds, rest and repeat. You may also use a light dumbbell or a resistance band for wrist flexion and extension.

Read more: 9 Moves You Can Do Every Day for Better Joint Mobility

Do these exercises up to four times a day to reap the benefits. Reach out to a physiotherapist if you continue to experience pain or stiffness in the wrist.

A medical professional can assess your wrist range of motion and determine the root cause of your symptoms, whether it's overuse, direct trauma, wrist injuries or poor mechanics. He or she may also rule out more serious disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis.

Is This an Emergency?

To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 infections, it is best to call your doctor before leaving the house if you are experiencing a high fever, shortness of breath or another, more serious symptom.
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