to Have Healthy Wrists, Forearms, and Elbows
By Dr. Ben
elbow, golfer's elbow, chronically tight forearm muscles, chronic
wrist pain - these are all common health challenges that can largely
be prevented and treated by simple stretches and pressure work.
elbow refers to inflammation of the tendons that attach to the outside
or lateral part of the elbow.
that attach to this region are the ends of the muscles that line the
back of your forearm. These muscles and tendons allow your hands to
grip and move objects. Try making a fist and curling it towards you
- this movement should allow you to feel a stretch in the muscles
that line the back of your forearm. If you strain these muscles and
their tendons enough, you can develop tennis elbow.
the keys to allowing tennis elbow to heal is to rest your wrist and
forearm. Specifically, you want to avoid activities that involve tightly
gripping objects and/or curling your hands toward you. By resting
your wrist and forearm, you can give the muscles and tendons in your
upper forearm a chance to heal.
times with tennis elbow, there is chronic tightness in the muscles
that lead up to the inflamed tendons. This makes perfect sense since
it's overuse of these muscles (wrist extensors) that leads to inflammation
of their tendinous attachment points. If these muscles remain hypertonic,
you may have a difficult time fully recovering from tennis elbow,
or if you don't currently have tennis elbow, having tight wrist extensor
muscles may increase your risk of developing tennis elbow should you
ever overuse these muscles. The reason for all of this is simple:
when muscles are tight, some of the burden that they should be shouldering
gets shifted to their tendinous ends.
important part of treating tennis elbow is ensuring that the muscles
that line the outside of your forearm are at healthy lengths.
to Prevent and Treat Tight Wrist Extensors
with your arm in front of you with your wrist flexed towards the inner
portion of your forearm. You should feel a stretch in the muscles
that line your outer forearm. Be sure to keep your fingers curled
towards your palm, or just maintain a fist.
fingers of your opposite hand to apply pressure to your outer forearm
muscles. Begin close to your elbow joint. As you alleviate any tightness
and tenderness in these muscles, you'll move your fingers right down
your forearm to work on the entire length of your wrist extensors
(please see arrow in picture below).
maintaining firm pressure on your forearm muscles, slowly flex and
extend the hand of the forearm that you are working on, like you're
turning the handles of a bicycle. Ideally, you want to keep your fingers
curled forward, or even maintain a fist. With each forward flex, you
should feel tightening of your forearm muscles (under the pads of
the fingers of your opposite hand). If there are bundles of tight
muscle fibers, you'll likely feel some tenderness with each forward
flex. Move your wrist back and forth several times, then move a few
inches down your forearm and repeat. Do this until you get close to
your wrist and can't feel any muscle fibers.
a closeup that shows how to apply pressure to your wrist extensors:
if you don't have elbow pain, stretching and doing pressure work to
your forearm muscles in this fashion can help keep your wrists, elbows,
and the muscles that span between these two joints healthy. In some
cases, pain on the outside part of the wrist can be "referred" pain
that originates from tight muscles closer to the elbow joint - I've
encountered a number of cases over the years where doing the pressure
work in the elbow region as shown above has led to complete relief
from wrist pain.
to Prevent and Treat Tight Wrist Flexors (Golfer's Elbow)
elbow refers to inflammation of the tendons that attach to the inner
or medial part of the elbow. While tennis elbow tends to occur right
up close to the bony insertion point of the wrist extensor tendons,
golfer's elbow tends to occur a little further down from the elbow
joint, within the meat of the wrist flexor muscles, approximately
two to three finger widths away from the elbow joint.
mentioned above on treating and preventing tennis elbow applies to
golfer's elbow. Even if you don't have pain along the inner part of
your elbow, by stretching and doing pressure work on your wrist flexor
muscles, you can reduce your risk of experiencing problems in your
wrist flexor muscles and tendons one day.
standing close to a door or window frame (something sturdy that can
support your weight) with your arm straight out in front of you, palm
into the window or door frame, and allow your hand to bend down towards
the ground with your palm in full contact with the surface that you're
feel an immediate stretch in your wrist flexors, most likely right
up around the front, inner portion of your elbow. If you can't bend
your hand enough to allow your palm to fully contact the window frame,
just go as far as is comfortable. Maintain this stretch for as long
as you'd like - about 30 seconds at a time can provide an effective
stretch of the muscles and tendons that flex your wrist.
this stretch, try moving your hand up the window frame in increments
- the higher you go, the greater the stretch of your wrist flexors.
Just do what you can comfortably tolerate, and don't forget to breathe
ensure that there is no lingering hypertonicity of your wrist flexors,
go back to the first position where your palm is against the window
frame and your arm is parallel to the floor, then use the thumb of
your opposite hand to apply pressure to your wrist flexor muscles.
Here, you don't need to move your wrist back and forth into flexion
and extension; I've found that it's best just to keep it extended
to maintain constant tension on your wrist flexor muscles, and then
to do pressure work while these tissues are under tension.
like you did with your wrist extensors, you can move your thumb down
the length of your wrist flexors while these muscles are being stretched
by the window frame. Maintain steady breathing, and visualize these
muscles getting to and staying at healthy lengths.
way to elongate shortened forearm muscles is to use a hand-held roller.
case of your wrist extensors, begin with your wrist flexed to create
tension along the target muscles, then roll these muscles back and
forth against a hand-held roller that's kept upright with your other
hand, almost like you're playing the cello.
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