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Keep carpal tunnel syndrome at bay!

Quite often, when we talk about the importance of stretching and its related health benefits, we leave out our fingers, hands and wrists.

But try typing while you're having a hand spasm, or carrying groceries home while they're cramping. It's painful and uncomfortable and could be the start of a bigger problem, like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Now, not every discomfort can be attributed to that, but it's still a good idea to regularly stretch your fingers, hands and wrists to help prevent this or any other overuse condition. The best part is that you can easily do them right at your desk! Just note that if the pain is acute or persists, it's a good idea to see a physiotherapist or your doctor.

Notice that your fingers, hands and wrists are not separate entities, but rather they are connected to your forearms. Simply clench your fists and notice that your forearm muscles engage. Any kind of self massage will also help alleviate tension and discomfort in your hands and wrists.

Here are a few of the best stretches for your fingers, hands and wrists:

You can do this stretch while sitting or standing. Simply press the palms of your hands together in a prayer position. Your elbows should be pointing straight out to the sides. Now, lower your hands down to about waist height and hold for about 20 seconds.

1. Palm up

Reach your right hand out in front of you with your palm facing out and fingers pointing up (like you're signaling someone to stop). Very gently pull your fingers toward you with your left hand, so that your right hand is bending back. Hold for about 15 seconds, and then repeat with the left hand.

2. Palm down

Now, reach your right hand out in front of you, wrist bent so that your palm is facing towards you and your fingers are pointing down. Use your left hand to gently press your right fingers and hand toward you. Hold for about 15 seconds, and then repeat with the left hand. Note that you can also do this one with your palm facing out away from you by rotating your arm upwards, just choose the way that feels best.

Since most of the pain that you might be feeling in your hands and wrists is due to overuse, this exercise will help strengthen your wrists and hands while stretching them.

Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms out with your palms facing away from you. Now reach them up toward the ceiling with your shoulders lengthening down your back. Hold for about 10 to 15 seconds and repeat. Not only does this exercise stretch your hands and forearms, but it also improves your circulation.

This is a great exercise to strengthen the muscles in your hands, and in fact, it's one my physiologist gave me when I broke my thumb. Wrap a very light resistance band around your hand, spread your fingers out to the sides and then bring them back together. Repeat for 10 reps, and then switch hands.

Similarly to the yoga pose, cross your right arm over your left arm at the elbows and continue crossing your arms until the palms of your hands are touching. Now bend your elbows and lift your arms up toward the ceiling. Don't worry if you aren't flexible enough to do this stretch perfectly, just do as much as you can. Try to keep your shoulders from raising up with your arms. Hold for about 20 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.

Any workout where your hands are bearing weight will also be great to strengthen your hands and your wrist. If you have any previous wrist injuries, it's wise to check with your doctor or a physiotherapist to confirm whether they are safe to do. These muscles are small, so be gentle with whatever stretches you do, and remember that stretching and strengthening go hand in hand.

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