Wrist & Arm Pain

Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a licensed Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. If you have a question, just ask. Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Stretches

Here are some simple Carpal tunnel syndrome stretches. Wrist flexion and extension with radial and ulnar deviation are the stretches to loosen up the scar tissue that has build up in the carpal tunnel. Also you can use overpressure and the prayer stretch to stretch the tendons and vessels running through your carpal tunnel. 

Your carpal tunnel can get irritated and inflamed when working on the computer for a long time or any activity that puts excess pressure on your wrist area. There are many vessels that run through the carpal tunnel, and the nerves can get compressed and cause pain and numbness in the hands. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome. Not only can it be painful, but it also can cause aching, shooting pain, numbness, or just stiffness. Make sure that you have been diagnosed by your doctor that it is truly carpal tunnel syndrome. Many times numbness and pain in the hands can actually be coming from your neck and be misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome.

The first stretches will be to loosen up your wrist. Make a fist, and at your wrist, bend your hand up and down, or flexion and extension. Then you can go side to side, or radial and ulnar deviation. You can open your fist and straighten your hands for an increased stretch. If that doesn't feel like enough stretch, you can give yourself some overpressure by using your other hand and push in the directions your are stretching. Hold these for 30 seconds and do three of each. If you want to stretch the hands together, you can do a prayer stretch by putting your hands together and bending at the wrist.

 

Neural Glides for Ulnar, Median & Radial Nerves

The nerves in your arms and legs can move and stretch. Nerves can become injured just like muscles and tendons. Scar tissue can build up and trap the nerves. This can lead to chronic inflammation and pain. To get the nerves moving again, you can do special stretches called neural glides (also called neural flossing or nerve stretching).  

For your arm, there are three main nerves that can get damaged or trapped at your neck, shoulder, wrist, or elbow. These three nerves are your ulnar nerve, median nerve, and radial nerve. Neural glides should be performed very gently and there should never be pain. Nerves are very fragile and too much stretching can injure them as well.

To stretch the ulnar nerve, take your index (pointer) finger and touch it to your thumb while holding your other three fingers in the air, like an okay sign. Bring your hand towards your face leading with your pinky finger like you are going to place it over your eye (like making a mask when we were children). At first you might not be able to place it completely over your eye, but remember not to push too hard, you just want a gentle stretch. Start off with ten times and do this two to three times a day.

The next stretch is for the median nerve. Take your arm out to the side of you at a ninety-degree angle with your palm facing up. Keeping your fingers straight, bend up and down at your wrist. You can add more of a stretch by side bending your head to the opposite side (touching your ear to your shoulder). If that is still not quite enough, then move your arm slightly behind you and repeat the process.

With the radial nerve, you want to perform the same stretch as the median nerve, but this time turn your palm down towards the ground.

For the legs, you want to sit down. Straighten out your leg (kick it forward). Pull your toes towards you and then point them out (doriflex and plantarflex). If that is not enough stretch, then slump your upper body down and bring your chin to your chest, and repeat the above movements.

Remember to be very gentle with these stretches and only do about ten at a time, two to three times a day.  

Elbow Pain

Many times with elbow pain, you will be diagnosed with tennis elbow or golfer's elbow. Tennis elbow is when you have pain on the outside or lateral side of your elbow or forearm. This is when the extensor muscles of the arm get irritated and it is called lateral epicondylitis. Golfer's elbow is pain on the inside or medial side of the elbow or forearm. This is when the flexor muscles get irritated, and it is called medial epicondylitis. 

These exercises will also help if you have been diagnosed with tendonitis or bursitis of the elbow, or if it is just feeling stiff or achy. Start off with your arm out and no bend in the elbow. Go gently first, bend your wrist down into flexion. Then bend your wrist up  into extension. If that doesn't feel like a good stretch, you can use your other hand for some overpressure. Gently push into the direction you are stretching. You can also push against a wall for some overpressure.

 

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