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5 Surprising Benefits of Wrist Therapy After an Overuse or Traumatic Injury

wrist therapy

Your wrists play an essential role in your daily life. But thanks to smartphones and computer-focused work environments, hand and wrist pain is more prevalent than ever. 

Wrist pain stems from a range of conditions, from overuse to traumatic injuries. Discomfort can also arise from long-term conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis.

Wrist therapy focuses on building stronger wrists, fingers, and hands. A professional can help your wrist ease tension and lower inflammation. Different wrist therapy workouts focus on strengthening specific areas of your hand and fingers.

Let’s explore some of the most common wrist problems, and all of the surprising benefits wrist therapy has to offer.

Common Work-Related Wrist Injuries

Wrist problems at work are more common than people realize. Just like other areas of your body, it’s essential to take good care of your wrists, hands, and fingers to avoid a painful injury at work.

Repetitive motions lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis that cause pain in your wrist and fingers. Overusing your fingers and hands during the 40-hour workweek causes flare-ups the lead to tendonitis. Repetitive strain injuries are one of the leading causes of workers’ compensation claims in the U.S. today.

Tripping or falling can cause a wrist injury that leaves you wearing a brace. Falls at work are 100% preventable, but slip and fall incidents are to blame for over eight million hospital visits. 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Your carpal tunnel is the passageway between your palm and your wrist. It’s made up of different bones, ligaments, and a median nerve. This nerve controls sensation in movement in your thumb and first three fingers.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when your median nerve is pinched. It causes numbness, tingling, and weakness that spreads from your wrist to your fingers. Many people describe the pain as a “pins-and-needles” sensation.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is most common in people who use their hands for work. The occupations with the most carpal tunnel syndrome cases are:

  • Assembly line workers
  • Sewers
  • Chefs and bakers
  • Hairstylists
  • Cashiers
  • Writers and secretaries

Carpal tunnel syndrome makes your wrist and fingers weak. The condition makes it difficult to type, write, hold things, and drive. Between four and ten million people are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome.

Wrist Fractures and Sprains

Wrist fractures occur when a person breaks one, or multiple, wrist bones. The fracture causes pain, stiffness, loss of movement, and swelling. Fractures can be simple, complex, comminuted (broken in multiple places), or compound (bones break through the skin). 

Wrist fractures can happen at any time, especially during physical labor. Janitors, stock workers, registered nurses, and maintenance workers have the most wrist-related injuries at work.

Building a stronger wrist through specialized wrist workouts lower your risk of an injury. Wrist fractures are the most common arm fractures in older adults. 

Wrist sprains are a little less severe than a wrist fracture. A wrist sprain occurs when a person bends their wrist backward, and its ligaments tear. Wrist sprains most commonly occur when a person tries to prevent him or herself from falling.

De Quervain’s Tendinitis

De Quervain’s tendinitis causes pain along your outer wrist, particularly near your thumb. The tendons at the base of the thumb get inflamed and irritated due to overuse or a wrist fracture.

De Quervain’s tendinitis is named after the Swiss surgeon who first diagnosed the condition in 1895. It’s caused by overuse or direct trauma to the thumb. De Quervain’s tendinitis affects women eight to ten times more often than men.

Those suffering from de Quervain’s tendinitis may have trouble making a fist, turning their wrist, or holding objects. Wrist therapy exercises focusing on the outer wrist and thumb can decrease inflammation and help people regain their strength.

What Is Wrist Therapy?

If you break your leg, once you’re out of your cast, your doctor will send you to a physical therapist. The therapy helps your leg build back lost muscle. The same is done for all parts of your body following an injury, including your wrists.

Your wrist has eight small carpal bones that connect it to your finger bones. There are 17 muscles in the palm of your hand and 18 in your forearm that move your wrist, hand, and fingers.

Therefore, your wrist is a very dynamic area. It’s responsible for fine and gross movements. For example, you use your wrist to open a door as well as button a shirt.

Wrist therapy aims to increase your wrist’s range of motion. It focuses on all of the small joints in your wrists and hands to make them stronger and more flexible.

Increasing wrist muscles and your hand’s flexibility leads to less pain and injuries. Wrist therapy can help you keep arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome away. A stronger wrist equals fewer missed days at work.

Wrist Therapy Benefits

Fortunately, occupation therapy is available to help you get your wrists back in shape. Occupational therapists teach you how to change your movements and conduct office work without putting your body at risk.

The main goal of wrist therapy is to decrease pain and alleviate arthritis symptoms. However, many people don’t realize wrist therapy builds stronger wrists to help you in your day-to-day activities. Hand and wrist therapy can also alleviate symptoms of other medical conditions and help you avoid surgery.

Let’s explore all of the surprising benefits of wrist therapy.

1. Reduce Hand Pain

The biggest benefit of hand therapy is decreasing pain in your wrists. Carpal tunnel syndrome and other wrist injuries are uncomfortable. With professional wrist workouts, you can exercise the pain away.

Wrist therapy focuses on performing gliding exercises that target your nerves and tendons. The workouts reduce inflammation and therefore lessen pain.

A 2011 research study conducted by the University of Miami administered wrist therapy to a group of 46 participants with hand pain. Those participants who received the therapy reported less discomfort and higher moods over a four-week period.

2. Ease Arthritis Symptoms

Your wrist is made up of tiny joints. Wrist arthritis occurs when those joints get inflamed. Arthritis attacks your wrist’s cartilage and makes the joints rub against one another, causing pain.

Aside from discomfort, wrist arthritis also causes:

  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Weakness
  • Cracking and grinding noises

Wrist arthritis can cause mild, moderate, or severe pain. Performing wrist exercises decreases inflammation in your joints. Wrist therapy helps people experience less distress and get their range of motion back.

3. Build Stronger Wrists

Wrist therapy improves your hand and wrist strength. Stretching the muscles keeps your wrist stable. The workouts make your wrist’s muscles more durable.

As you perform wrist movements, synovial fluid production increases. This liquid keeps your wrist joints lubricated to increase mobility. The more synovial fluid in your wrists, the higher its range of motion will be.

How important is having a strong wrist? Very! Powerful muscles in your hands and wrist help you complete daily activities, such as:

  • Driving a car
  • Cooking
  • Lifting weights at the gym
  • Golfing or playing tennis
  • Typing on a computer
  • Writing

As with all exercises, it’s best to start light and work your way to more intense wrist workouts. As your wrists become stronger, you can incorporate exercise bands and small weights into your workouts.

By strengthening your wrist through occupational therapy, you can increase your range of motion and decrease your risk of a wrist injury. Wrist curls, ball squeezes, wrist walking are great workouts for building a strong wrist. As with all exercises, make sure you stretch your wrist and hand before and after your workouts.

4. Alleviate Symptoms of Medical Conditions

Aside from helping those suffering from arthritis, hand and wrist therapy is beneficial for a range of medical conditions. Wrist exercises and massages can help patients dealing with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Autism
  • Parkinson’s disease

McMaster University in Canada conducted a study in which participants performed ten different handgrip exercises for eight weeks. The wrist therapy improved the participant’s resting systolic blood pressure. Researchers believe the gripping and wrist workouts help a person’s arteries become more flexible.

Fibromyalgia causes physical pain throughout the body, but physical therapy alleviates some discomfort. Supervised exercise with a professional, including wrist workouts, help lead to better flexibility and lower inflammation. Physical therapy patients experience fewer fibromyalgia symptoms and enjoy more pain-free days.

Living with autism means dealing with sensory sensitivity that disrupts day-to-day tasks. Building a stronger wrist through exercises and wearing wrist wrists stimulates pressure. The weights decrease sensory disruptions and help those with self-injurious behavior.

Hand and wrist exercises help people living with Parkinson’s disease. The workouts focus on improving flexibility and dexterity. Wrist therapy can help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their fine motor skills, such as writing and dressing.

5. Avoid Surgery

People dealing with wrist arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome may believe surgery is the only answer. But physical therapy can be just as effective.  

Manual therapy works to improve hand and wrist function, increase range of motion, and decrease pain. Researchers found that this type of physical therapy improved hand and wrist function as effectively as a standard surgery would.

The study focused on 100 women with carpal tunnel syndrome. Half underwent surgery while the others participated in manual physical therapy.

In the study, those who chose physical therapy reported better results compared to those who underwent surgery. The study’s lead author stated the findings mean that people should consider physical therapy before heading to the operating room.

When done right, physical therapy creates stronger wrists and leads to long-term results. Those who undergo surgery may experience less pain but have flare-ups later down the line.

For those with severe wrist pain or advanced arthritis, surgery may be unavoidable. Following surgery, patients are advised to consider physical therapy to keep their wrists healthy for years to come.

Wrist Workouts

Wrist therapy doesn’t have to include fancy equipment. Most exercises can be done using a table or sitting in a chair.

But just because it seems simple, doesn’t mean you should try wrist therapy on your own. Consult with an occupational therapist before trying wrist exercises to make sure they are the right ones for your body. 

Below are examples of common wrist exercises done during occupational therapy that help patients dealing with hand, finger, and wrist pain.

Wrist Extensions and Flexions

Wrist extensions and flexions are great starting points for wrist therapy. For this exercise, begin by placing your forearm on a table.

Extend your wrist with its palm facing down. Bend your wrist to move your hand upward and make a fist. Lower your hand and relax your fingers.

Hold each of these positions for about six seconds. Repeat eight to twelve times.

Wrist Supination and Pronation

Supination and pronation are movements that work your wrist’s tiny muscles. You can do this exercise either sitting or standing.

Keep your arm at your side. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees with your palm facing down.

Rotate your forearm. As you move, face your palm up and then down. Alternate between your two hands, and repeat the exercise eight to twelve times.

Hand and Finger Tendon Glide

Your fingers are connected to your wrists, which means they need exercise, too. Start by extending your fingers out straight.

Hook your fingers, then straighten them. Make a full fist, then straighten your hand. Make a straight fist (close all fingers while extending your thumb), then straighten your hand.

Hold each position for six seconds and repeat the cycle eight to twelve times.

Hand Massages

Physical therapy isn’t just about exercising. Massages are incorporated to ease muscle tension, raise blood flow, decrease inflammation.

Hand massages reduce wrist pain caused by arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. A hand massage may also lessen anxiety, improve a patient’s mood, and increase grip strength.

Find a Physical Therapist Near You

A local physical or occupational therapist can help you build a stronger wrist through professional wrist therapy techniques. With a little help from the pros, different wrist exercises can make your hands and fingers stronger and more flexible than ever. In return, you’ll be less prone to arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and painful wrist injuries.

Is it time to get started on your occupational therapy treatments? Click here to search for an experienced therapist or doctor near you or call 1-800-897-8440 today. Our search engine will help you find the perfect team so you can build stronger wrists and a healthier body.