Forearm/Wrist Flexor and Extensor Self-Care and Stretches
Summer is finally here and with the arrival of the nice weather comes fun summer activities like bicycling, gardening and outdoor sports and hobbies. We spend a lot of time stretching and strengthening our larger muscles groups like our quadriceps, hamstrings and core muscles, but we often neglect the essential muscles in our forearms. Our forearm flexors and extensors are put through a tremendous amount of strain on a daily basis, whether it be from texting, working at our computers, carrying heavy loads or gripping things in the course of our daily activities. These muscles are further challenged in the summer when we add our weekend leisure activities, especially hand-intensive activities like bicycling and gardening, that put a lot of stress on the muscles that cross our wrists.
It’s important to warm up our forearm muscles with some dynamic mobilization movements before we undertake any strenuous activities, much like we would warm up our muscles before doing a workout at the gym or at a sporting event. Warming up before any prolonged activity can greatly reduce the risk of injury, especially injuries caused by repetitive strain. Clenching and unclenching our fists, flexing and extending our wrists, and performing gentle wrist circles are just a few activities we can do to warm up and promote circulation to our forearms and hands.
Equally important, but much neglected, is stretching after prolonged or intensive use of our forearms. Stretching will really help to reduce the stress and strain on tired muscles, and help restore your forearms to their normal, pain-free, functional range of motion.
Here are a series of stretches for your forearm/wrist flexors and extensors, that you can easily do sitting at your desk, out in the garden, or on your bike when you’re waiting at a stop light.
Remember, each stretch should be performed for a minimum of 30 seconds, while taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. You should feel a slight tension in the muscles when you stretch, but it should never feel painful.
Forearm Flexor Stretch
Some of our wrist flexor muscles originate above our elbow, so we need to extend or straighten the elbow to achieve an effective stretch. To stretch your left wrist flexors, extend your left arm in front of you, palm facing up, and use your right hand to apply gentle pressure and pull the fingers of your left hand towards the floor. Switch hands and perform the same stretch on the opposite wrist.
To stretch both arms at the same time, place both hands palms down on a table top, wall, or other supportive surface, about shoulder width apart, and with both elbows straight (but not hyperextended), gently push your shoulders forward until you feel a stretch on the flexor surface of both forearms.
Forearm Extensor Stretch
As above, begin with your arm outstretched, elbow straightened. To stretch your left wrist extensors, extend your left arm in front of you, palm facing down, and use your right hand to apply gentle pressure and pull the fingers of your left hand towards your body. Switch hands and perform the same stretch on the opposite wrist.
To stretch both arms at the same time, extend your arms in front of you, elbows straight, and gently flex both wrists, palms facing towards your body, placing the back of your hands on a stable surface for resistance.
Forearm Pronation and Supination Strengthen & Stretch
To strengthen and stretch some of the muscles that help to pronate and supinate (rotate) our forearms, support your forearm on a table top or stable surface, with your wrist hanging off the edge of the table. Grasp a hammer or small dumbbell in your fist. Keeping the wrist straight, elbow bent, gentle let the weighted head of the hammer rotate your wrist and forearm as far as comfortably possible. Hold this position for approximately 10 seconds and then rotate the hammer in the opposite direction. This activity can be used to strengthen the muscles in your forearm, but make sure to use a weight that isn’t too heavy. You can also extend your grip on the hammer by holding it closer to the end of the handle, to add extra resistance.
Forearm Ice Water Bath
If you’ve had a particularly gruelling day in the garden, you can also give your forearms an ice water bath to energize tired, achy arms and hands.
Fill a tub or basin with cold water or ice water (as cold as tolerable). Submerge your forearms and hands in the water for 10 – 120 seconds or just until your arm/hand begins to ache. Remove from the water bath and dry thoroughly. Perform a few wrist circles to encourage circulation.
Hopefully these exercises and stretches will help relieve any tension you might be feeling in your forearms this summer. Please feel free to contact me at Therapy Lounge if you have any questions about stretches or exercises for your forearms, or if you would like to book a treatment. Have a healthy and happy summer!