Hand and Wrist Exercises With Household Items

Keep your arms mobile and strong while working from home

One area of your body that may suffer due to an improperly set up workstation is your hands and wrists. Taking some time each day to perform hand and wrist exercises can help stave off any painful conditions—like carpal tunnel syndrome—that may arise.

Exercises should focus on maintaining flexibility and range of motion of your fingers and wrists and strengthening the muscles around your hands, wrists, and forearms.

You may experience pain, loss of motion, and difficulty using your computer or functioning properly if your hands and wrists hurt. Forearm pain may also prevent you from sleeping, reaching for items, or generally doing the things you want to do.

Some conditions that may occur to your upper extremities as a result of repetitive strain may include:

One common problem, carpal tunnel syndrome, affects nearly 8 million people each year and is a leading cause of hand and wrist pain and dysfunction.

The condition may cause pinching of your median nerve in your wrist, leading to pain, weakness in your hands, or numbness and tingling in your thumbs and fingers. If left unchecked, the condition may become severe and require invasive treatments like injections or surgery to fix.

Before starting any exercise program, be sure to visit your physician or local physical therapist to be sure that exercise is safe for you to do. You may also be able to access your healthcare provider via a telehealth visit as well.

Make sure that your home office or workspace is set up ergonomically too. You may have to get creative, but ensuring that you are working in the best position possible may help reduce injury risk.

Carpal Tunnel Tendon Glides

Carpal tunnel tendon glides

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Carpal tunnel tendon gliding has been shown to decrease symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and they may be used to prevent problems with carpal tunnel syndrome. The gliding exercises are used to gently floss the tendons that course through your carpal tunnel, keeping them moving properly through your wrist.

Carpal tunnel tendon glides are done in a specific order. Here's how:

  1. Start with your arm in front of you with your hand up, as if you were signaling someone to "stop." (After each subsequent hand position, you should return to this "open palm" position.)
  2. Gently bend your fingers down until each knuckle is bent and the tips of your fingers are touching the base of your fingers. Hold the position for 3 seconds.
  3. Return to the open palm position.
  4. Slowly make a fist and gently squeeze. (There should be no pain.) Hold this position for 3 seconds.
  5. Return to the open palm position.
  6. Move to the "L" position (tabletop position) by bending all of your fingers forward while keeping your knuckles straight. Only the joints where your fingers attach to your hand should move. Hold the "L" position for 3 seconds.
  7. Return, once again, to the open palm position.
  8. Bend your fingers at the first and middle joints so the tips of your fingers touch your lower palm. The joints closest to the tips of your fingers should remain straight. Hold this position for 3 seconds.
  9. Finally, return to the open palm position.

Carpal tunnel tendon gliding should not cause pain or tingling in your hand or fingers. If that happens, stop the exercise and speak with your physician. You can perform these tendon glides two or three times each day.

Rubber Band Finger Extension

Rubber band finger extension

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If you are spending a lot of time typing on the computer, your fingers are kept in a slightly flexed position for hours each day. To offset this position, you may want to try the rubber band finger extension exercise. This exercise strengthens the finger extenders of your wrist and forearm.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Obtain a rubber band.
  2. Rest your forearm on a table.
  3. Place the rubber band around the tips of your fingers.
  4. Slowly extend your fingers against the force of the rubber band.
  5. Hold the extended position for 3 seconds and then slowly release back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

The rubber band finger extension exercise can be performed three to four times each week.

Key Grip Pinch

Key grip pinch

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Maintaining finger and thumb strength can be an important component to your upper extremity health and function. One exercise you can do to strengthen the small muscles that control finger position is the key grip pinch.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Obtain a rubber band.
  2. Form the rubber band into a small ball by bunching it up.
  3. Hold the small rubber band ball between your thumb and first finger. (The position should feel like you are holding a key to open a lock.)
  4. Gently squeeze the rubber band ball between your thumb and finger. Hold the position for 3 seconds and then release.
  5. Repeat the exercise 15 times.

The key grip pinch can be done three to four times each week to maintain finger and thumb strength.

Towel Hand Grip

Towel hand grip

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A simple way to maintain or improve overall grip strength is to perform the towel hand grip exercise. To do the exercise:

  1. Find a hand towel, fold it in half, and then roll it up like a hot dog.
  2. Rest your forearm on a table.
  3. Gently squeeze the towel.
  4. Hold the squeeze for 5 seconds and then relax.
  5. Repeat the exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions.

The towel hand strengthening exercise can be done three to four times each week.

Forearm Muscle Strengthening

Forearm muscle strengthening (hammer)

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Working to keep your forearm and wrist muscles strong may already be an important component of your home exercise program to help prevent pain or limited function. But several exercises can be done with items around the house to strengthen them too.

Hammer Strengthening Forearm Exercises

To strengthen the muscles that turn your forearm and hand over, you can perform the hammer strength exercise. Here's how:

  1. Obtain a hammer.
  2. Hold the end of the hammer in one hand with your forearm resting on a table.
  3. Slowly turn the hammer over so your palm is down. Hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Then, slowly turn the hammer over so your palm faces up. Hold for 3 seconds.
  5. Repeat 15 times.

If it feels too difficult to control the hammer motion while turning it over and back, choke up on it a bit to decrease the length of the lever arm, and thus, decreasing the torque around your wrist and hand.

Keep in mind that you should move in slow and controlled motions while performing upper extremity strengthening exercises. Sudden or jerky motions can lead to muscle, tendon, or joint injury.

Water Bottle Wrist Exercises

To strengthen the muscles that extend your wrists:

  1. Obtain a 16-ounce water bottle.
  2. Hold the bottle in your hand with your arm resting on a table and your hand hanging over the edge of the table.
  3. Keep your palm down.
  4. Slowly raise the bottle up by extending your wrist. Hold this position for 3 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower the bottle back down.
  6. Repeat 15 times.

To strengthen your wrist flexors:

  1. Turn your hand over so your palm is up while holding the bottle over the edge of the table.
  2. Slowly raise the bottle up by flexing your wrist. Hold this position for 3 seconds.
  3. Slowly lower the bottle down.
  4. Repeat 15 times.

Wrist Flexor Stretch

Wrist flexor stretch
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This exercise stretches the muscles of your forearm that bend your wrist. Here is how to do it:

  1. Sit in your office chair and raise your arm in front of you with your palm up.
  2. Keep your elbow straight.
  3. Slowly bend your wrist down so the back of your hand moves towards the floor.
  4. Use your opposite hand to add some over-pressure for the stretch by gently pulling the palm of your hand down. You should feel a pulling sensation in your wrist and forearm.
  5. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then release.
  6. Repeat three times.

The stretch can also be done by standing at your desk and placing both hands on the edge of the work surface. Keep your elbows straight and slowly lean forward, stretching your wrists. Hold the position for 30 seconds, and then relax. This stretch can be done two or three times each day.

If you feel pain or tingling in your hand or fingers, stop the stretch immediately, as this could be a sign of median nerve irritation in your carpal tunnel.

Wrist Extensor Stretch

Wrist extensor stretch

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The wrist extensor stretch improves flexibility of the muscles that extend your hand and wrist. Here is how you do it:

  1. Sit in your chair and raise your arm in front of you with your palm facing down.
  2. Keep your elbow straight.
  3. Slowly bend your wrist down so your palm moves towards the floor.
  4. Use your opposite hand to pull your hand down, gently stretching the muscles of your forearm. Your elbow should remain straight. You should feel a pulling sensation in the back of your wrist and forearm.
  5. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then release.
  6. Repeat three times.

The wrist extensor stretch can be done two or three times a day.

Upper Extremity Nerve Glides

Upper extremity nerve glides (median nerve)

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Three major nerves travel from your neck to your hand and wrist. These nerves sometimes require gentle flossing to keep them gliding and sliding normally in your arms. The three upper extremity nerve glides can be done a few times a day to keep the nerves mobile.

Median Nerve

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Hold your arm out to the side with the elbow bent.
  3. Straighten the palm of the hand.
  4. Face the palm of the hand toward the ceiling.
  5. Slowly bend your wrist down, stretching the front of your wrist and palm.
  6. Then, bend your head away from your outstretched arm. Be sure to maintain good posture and alignment of your shoulders as you bend your wrist and neck.
  7. Hold this stretched position for 2 seconds and then return to the starting position with both your wrist and head.
  8. Repeat 10 times.

Radial Nerve

  1. Stand with your arm down at your side near your hip, palm facing towards your back.
  2. Relax one shoulder and let it sink towards the ground.
  3. Bend your wrist up (thumb towards your body) and then slowly pull your shoulder back into extension.
  4. While holding this position, bend your neck away from your arm.
  5. Hold the position for 2 seconds and then slowly release.
  6. Repeat 10 repetitions.

Ulnar Nerve

  1. Stand with your arm to be stretched out to the side, palm facing the floor.
  2. Slowly bend your elbow and wrist up so the palm of your hand moves toward the side of your face. You should feel a gentle tug in your wrist, pinky, or elbow.
  3. Hold the position for 2 seconds and then release.
  4. Repeat the ulnar nerve glide 10 times.

When performing nerve flossing, you may feel a slight pulling sensation in your arm. You may also feel mild tingling as well; you should not feel any strong tingling. If that happens, you should move back a step.

These sensations should subside within a few minutes of stopping the gliding exercises. If they persist, check in with your physician.

A Word From Verywell

Maintaining hand and wrist strength and mobility may be a key component to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and other upper extremity repetitive strain problems. This may be challenging when stuck inside and working from home.

Finding ways to use items around the house to improve strength and upper extremity mobility can help keep you in tip-top shape and may prevent common hand and wrist problems.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wright AR, Atkinson RE. Carpal tunnel syndrome: An update for the primary care physicianHawaii J Health Soc Welf. 2019;78(11 Suppl 2):6–10

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