Getting a Grip: Hand and forearm self-care

What do rock climbers, pole-vaulters and baseball players have in common? The total dependency of their hands not failing them at the most critical point. All these athletes rely on their hand and forearm health for not only sports but also for everyday life. And no matter the sport or profession, everyone’s hands get much use each day. Self-care is an effective way to keep that area healthy: self massage and stretching techniques loosen it up, resulting in less tension, cramping or pain and improving hand, wrist and elbow strength and efficiency. In order to better take care of our lower arm, it is important to understand what muscles need to be worked on so let’s start with that.

Open Palm to Closed Fist: The paths of your muscles

Believe it or not your forearm muscles control the movements of your fingers. Go ahead and lay your hand and arm down on a fat surface then start drumming your fingers. Watch the end of the forearm near the elbow moving. Weird, right? Well this is what it looks like without the skin:

Muscles-in-the-Superficial-Layer-of-the-Posterior-Forearm-824x1024

As the first layout shows, all muscles start from the elbow and connect out to the fingers on the “top side” of your arm. Notice how the Extensor Digitorum (yellow) controls the index middle and ring finger and assist the pinky. Two other muscles that work in conjunction with moving the pinky are the Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (purple) and the Extensor Digit Minimi (green). So any time that you extend your fingers to wave, high five or set up to do push-ups these thee muscles are activated. Tennis players that prefer the backhand style and cross-fitters who practice “snatches” rely heavily on the extensors to power through the motions of each action.

http://teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/muscles/anterior-forearm/

Now the other side of your arm, the flexors, is meant for closing the hand and grasping things. Rock climbers and Jiu Jistu fighters all are dependent on these muscles for holding things for long periods of time or grabbing heavy items. The Flexor Carpi Ulnaris has two jobs of controlling the flexing of and assisting in the turning of the wrist. As for the other muscles Palmaris Longus and Flexor Carpi Radialis they are flexors of the wrist only and the Pronator Teres helps rotate the arm from the elbow.

And don’t get me wrong, there are many more underlying muscles in the arm that assist movement of the fingers, rotation from the elbow, etc. Those muscles are deeper and cannot be easily worked on by oneself. These are just the superficial muscles that you can access on your own to keep them loose and happy.  And since you want them loose and happy allow me to show you how.

Hand-le with care: Self-care instructions

Having all of the muscles laid out now lets us work on them to relieve the tension and cramping.

To self-massage your flexors and extensors you will use a ball to roll onto. Please refer to the video below for a demonstration.

To stretch that area, you will need a flat surface to place your hand on while standing. Please refer to the video below.

Our hands complete the activities of life. Doing self-care exercises will ensure efficient, comfortable movement, help increase strength and decrease restrictions and pain. No one wants to lose his or her grip when it is needed most.

 

This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.