Every year, hundreds of thousands of office workers are being disabled by repetitive strain injury and motion related pain to the hands and arms. For instance software developers spend a lot of time doing the same motion over and over such as keyboard typing, shifting the mouse around, and finger action swiping on touchscreens. These seemingly small gestures when done thousands of times a day can cause of disabilities such as carpal tunnel and musculoskeletal disorders. If ignored, this can even lead to unemployment.
According to leading chiropractors, the most common kinds of injuries afflicted by computer users at their workplace are :
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- (RSI) Repetitive Stress Injury
- “Mouse shoulder”
- Posterior cervical dorsal syndrome or “Computer Back”
- Lumbar sprains and strains
- Tennis elbow
- Disc injuries
A study carried out in 2008 shows a bleak future for people with continuous strains on hands and fingers. The results evaluated that any computer work done for over 20 hours a week puts the user at high risk of hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Evidence from research supports the benefits of hand exercising such as light strength training, yoga as well as massage in alleviating mild repetitive strain and carpal tunnel. According to a study in 2011 performed on patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, grip strength and general physical examination scores rose in 21% of patients within the first month and 34% of patients by month three. The results concluded that hand exercises like using an ‘exercise ball’ is recommended as a practical treatment for Hemodialys patients with mild carpal tunnel before considering more invasive treatments.
More evidence shows the benefits of hand splints and hand exercises in the treatment of common strains. Two groups of patients took part in a study: a much more significant improvement has been seen on those with carpal tunnel syndrome in both groups- one wearing a hand splint nightly for 1 month, the other practicing nerve and tendon gliding exercises in addition.
A high number of clinics and health care facilities, use a mixture of non surgical procedures, such as hand exercises to treat moderate hand and wrist injuries in office and at home as well. The scheme covers everything from long rest, splints worn during sleep to keep wrists straight, to tailored exercises that strengthen, unwind and stretch arms and hands.
For users who spend a lot of time in front of their machines, basic hand exercises prove effective in warding off or even treating mild hand and wrist injuries. They are straightforward to perform, can be done anywhere and won’t take up much time.
9 Hand and wrist exercises people should practice
1. Thumb Touches
Thumb touches help to align coordination between the thumb and forefingers and also raise blood flow back to the fingers.
Hold the hands outwards with the palms towards the ceiling
Take the right hand, slowly bring your thumb to touch the tip of every finger
Repeat on the other hand
Return to the starting position
Repeat five times with both hands
2. Shaking It Off
Shaking out your wrist and hands after remaining stationary for a period of time can raise blood flow and ease stiff joints.
Start by putting your hands out in front of you, palms facing downwards
Gently shake your hands by letting your wrist go limp
Perform for 10-15 seconds
Repeat the action 3 times
3. Thumb Flexion and Extension
Thumb Flexion and Extension exercise is an effective way to concentrate on the thumb specifically, which can grow stiff during long work days:
Start with the hands out in front of you and with your palms facing outwards
Gradually extend the thumb over the palm until a stretch is felt
Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then release back to the starting position
Repeat this stretch 10 times with both hands
4. Fist to Fan out
The fist to hand stretch is an effective way of stretching out the whole hand. This helps to alleviate joint and muscle stiffness:
Start with the hands in front of the body and palms facing downwards
Clench your fist with both hands
Open the fist half way keeping the fingers bent at the knuckles
Hold for 2 seconds
Stretch the hands fully and spread wide apart all five fingers making them straight
Hold for 2 seconds
Remake a fist and repeat action again.
Repeat action 5 times.
5. Grip Strengthening
Strengthening your grip is a perfect way to increase your whole hand and forearm strength. Improving your grip also strengthens your wrist muscles, helping protect it from repetitive strains and injuries.
Start in a seated position, with the right arm rested on a table
Start by holding a hand gripper or rubber ball
Squeeze and release the gripper with all four fingers and thumb in rapid repetition
Repeat for at least 10 – 15 times until a stretch is felt in the bottom of the forearm
Change to the other hand
6. Wrist Stretch
The basic wrist stretch is an excellent way to alleviate stiff joints in the wrist, especially after long days of typing and texting:
Extend the right hand out in front of the body with the palm facing upward
Wrap around all four fingers with the opposing hand
Gently pull the fingers down towards the floor
Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then release the hand back to the starting position
Repeat with the left hand, holding for 10 seconds
Repeat the exercise 5 times
7. Wrist Flexion and Extension
The wrist flexion and extension stretch is a direct way to stretch the wrist, which can help raise blood flow to the entire area and ward off issues like carpal tunnel and repetitive strains.
Sit down with both feet flat on the floor
Rest one arm at the edge of your desk, with the palm facing downwards and entire hand dangling off the edge. Cushion the wrist with a small towel if it feels more comfortable.
Gently stretch the hand at the wrist upwards towards the ceiling until you feel a stretch
Hold this stretch for 15 seconds, then release back to the starting position
Slowly flex the hands at the wrist again downwards towards the floor until a stretch is felt
Repeat the stretch 3 times in both directions
Switch hands and repeat with other hand
8. Praying position stretch
While standing up, place your palms together in a praying position. Have your elbows touch each other. Your hands should be in front of the face. The arms need to be touching each other from the fingertips to the elbows.
With the palms held together, gently spread the elbows apart. Do this while lowering the hands down to the waist. Pause when your hands are in front of your stomach or a sufficient stretch is felt.
Hold the stretch between 10 and 30 seconds then repeat
Reach one arm in front of your body at shoulder height
Keep the palm facing down toward the floor
Loosen the wrist so that your fingers dangle downward
With your free hand, lightly wrap your fingers and pull them back closer to the body
Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Within the past 40 years, labor has leaned from manual to technological. Employees who once lugged and shifted heavy materials in factories and warehouses are now typing with keyboards and on their phones. While this moment from tough, manual labor is good news for our spines, the modern office worker instead has to contend with moderate pain in their hands and wrists.
There is plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of hand exercises which we should start incorporating into our daily lives. Just a few minutes a day can relieve pain and prevent ailments, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strains, or work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Using a good ergonomic mouse and keyboard, people can vastly reduce their chances of developing carpal tunnel and other crippling RSI injuries to theirs hands.