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Desk Stretches Part 2 – Wrist and Arms

Working from home can cause aches and pains. For no apparent reason you can feel wrist or arm pain, sometimes these aches and pains reoccur every time you are back at your desk. This Blog to Balance shows you how to overcome these desk based aches and pains in your wrists and arms.

As our fingers type they execute our thoughts into the computer via the keyboard. The working muscles that move our fingers are in our forearms. On any given day the time typing is relatively small and should not cause problems in the muscles. However in-between typing they are ready and waiting for our instructions – hovering over the keyboard and mouse. It’s this act of hovering that stresses the muscles. Holding the body still takes a surprising amount of physical work. Think of the analogy of a sentry guard standing for hours in an attention posture. Just like the guard in this video your forearm muscles become fatigued and ache. With the addition of heat this guard faints. The video goes on to explain how the military use subtle movement, just like the warm-up and stretches I provide here, to overcome the stress and strains of being still.

The constant hovering of hands over keyboards and mouse alone can cause aches and pains due to adaptive shortening of the muscles. Within this Blog to Balance I have some techniques to combat these symptoms without leaving your desk.

Wrist and Forearm desk routine

The first thing I recommend is to warm up the muscles. The muscles that cause wrist, hand or forearm pain are from the forearm. These long muscles control finger and wrist movement and make the connection between the hand and the upper arm. There are many different muscles in the forearm to control the complicated movements required at the fingers and wrist. The selection shown in the image are the extensor muscles, the back of your forearm, this muscle group work hard to hover the hand over the keyboard and mouse.

  1. Warm-up
  2. Grip and stretch the fingers; make a fist with your hand and squeeze, then release and spread the fingers wide. Repeat x10
    Wrist flex and extend; place your arm out straight towards your screen, then flap your hand at the wrist up and down. Repeat x10

  3. Clasp hand range of movement
  4. Clasp the fingers together of your left and right hands. Raise the clasped hands in front of your eye line like you are praying. Move the clasped hands in circles at the wrist, left and then right. Repeat x10

  5. Forearm stretches
  6. The main forearm stretches are shown here in this video. These are used to combat the tension held in the forearm muscles while working at a computer. They are:
    – Gentle pulls on your own hand while the wrist is bent, one in flexion and the other extension.
    – The reverse prayer
    – Hands clasped behind your back, sit tall and then allow the elbows to bow outward by relaxing the hands and arms.

    Another great one is to stand up from your chair and place your hands flat on the desk, one with palms flat on table (almost like a seal) and the other with the backs of you hand flat on the table.

  7. Triceps and Biceps stretch
  8. Triceps stretch: Arm across body and brace the arm in place with your other arm. As shown here.
    Biceps stretch: Arm out in front of you, palm to ceiling, extend hand at wrist and lower arm down to feel the stretch from wrist to the shoulder.

  9. Self-massage forearm
  10. Be kind to your forearm by massaging the muscles. Take the hand of your none affected arm and place the finger pads on the painful forearm. Move the finger pads in a circular motion trying to separate the skin from the underlying tight muscles.

Extra Tip

Ideally you should never hover over the keyboard. Ideally you need to change your desk behaviour. My tip here is to alter your hand posture by simply turning your palms to the ceiling. This is called supination, as shown here.

If you are not in the act of typing or controlling your mouse I recommend you place your hands to either side of the keyboard with palms facing the ceiling. If you are reading a document you should also sit back into your chair and either lay the backs of your hands on your lap or by the keyboard.
This simple act of moving your hands from pronation to supination rests your forearm muscles as well as reversing the posture of your hands, forearms, shoulders and upper back. You can feel your chest open up and your shoulder blades settle closer together.
If you get into this hand posture habit of changing from pronation to supination you will have struck a better balance in your desk based posture and reduced your chances of muscle pain from desk based working.

For more posts in the Desk Stretches series click below:

Desk Stretches Part 1: Head, Neck and Shoulders

Desk Stretches Part 3: Upper Back

Desk Stretches Part4: Lower Back

Desk Stretches Part 5 – Legs and Calves

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