Internet surfing to find the best deals, cooking your favorite holiday meals, wrapping and crafting for hours on end… oh what to do to keep those hands on the mend!
*Any time that your fingers are repeatedly hitting keys, clicking a mouse, clasping a tablet, cutting, cooking, or knitting for hours you are overworking your finger flexor muscles, not to mention that the ill positions or postures your arms may be in could provoke injury.
*Even those poor thumbs just clicking away on your smart phones while texting or navigating the web can become cramped and painful.
*Did you ever experience numbness or tingling in your hands? This could be due to just positioning your wrists incorrectly, or keeping your elbows bent for too long.
Holiday preparation time requires a lot of work from our busy hands to get everything ready to be just as we have planned! Here are some hints to keep our hands healthy:
1. Interrupt repetitive typing, writing, chopping, or knitting by periodically stretching your fingers and wrists into extension. (see image below)
Palms together/ elbows apart. Hold for 10 seconds, 5 times
2. Utilize automatic can/ bottle openers in the kitchen (when able) to decrease stresses on the finger and thumb joints. Jar grippers are helpful if an automatic opener appliance is not available.
3. Intermittently exercise your fingers in a way to create healthy, alternate flexor tendon gliding through the “carpal tunnel”. (see positional flexor tendon glide series)
Position from one pose to the next to complete one series. Repeat 5 series.
4. Try to maintain a “neutral wrist” position during hand tasks- avoid extreme bending or extending back of the wrist for prolonged periods. (see image below). If you have experienced “carpal tunnel syndrome” in the past, you may be familiar with a wrist immobilizer brace which can be helpful to maintain a “neutral wrist” position during hand tasks or to sleep in.
Note that wrist is not flexed down toward palm and only subtly extended.
5. Interrupt a prolonged, bent-elbow position that we so often don’t realize can be problematic until we come to know what “ulnar nerve irritation” or “cubital tunnel syndrome” feels like (numb/tingly sensations in the pinky side of your hand, ring finger and small finger- sometimes including the inner elbow and forearm). This can occur when reading with elbows bent and holding a book, likewise if holding a phone or computer tablet with elbow bent for a while. Extend elbows out straight periodically. If you have noticed the symptoms mentioned, try to avoid sleeping with the elbows bent as well.
6. Avoid weight-bearing directly onto your elbows for a prolonged period of time, ie: chin-to-palm while leaning on elbow staring at a computer screen seeking out the perfect gift. This can create irritation to the ulnar nerve at the inner (medial) elbow.
Don’t forget your mittens and gloves- moisturize to show those hands some love!
Wishing you Healthy Hands and Happy Holidays!
Dora Cetrone, PT, CHT, Cert. MDT
Staff Physical Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist
SOS Physical Therapy (Guilford Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Center)