Are you a gamer, athlete, or regular computer user? If so, you’re probably no stranger to wrist pain. Up to 24 percent of athletes and people with physically demanding jobs suffer from wrist pain — and if you use your hands and arms often, you know how bothersome it can be.
The pain can range from subtle to sharp, making it tough to work, cook, and go about your daily routine. Luckily, a simple self-massage may be able to ease your pain and boost your mobility along the way.
Read on to learn about wrist pain massage, including the benefits, techniques, and tips to go about it safely.
The Most Common Causes of Wrist Pain
Your wrist is a complex joint that’s made of many small bones, ligaments, and tendons.
Specifically, it’s made up of eight carpal bones, which connect to two forearm bones and five hand bones. This means that even though your wrist looks like one large joint, it actually consists of several bones that connect to each other.
Needless to say, there are various potential reasons for wrist pain. Some of the most common ones include:
If your daily life requires lots of repetitive hand motions, you may be at risk of overuse pain in your wrist.
At first, this kind of pain can feel like simple muscle fatigue. But over time, it can develop into achiness around the joint. Fortunately, most people with overuse-related pain can recover with proper rest and TLC.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the leading causes of wrist and hand pain, affecting up to 5% of people in the world. This syndrome happens when a large nerve that runs through your wrist (the median nerve) becomes irritated or compressed.
Beyond wrist pain, carpal tunnel can cause a telltale numbness or tingling that travels through the hand. It doesn’t always have a precise root cause, but it often stems from overuse or related conditions.
Six main tendons run through your carpal tunnel and help to control your wrist movement. When these tendons become stressed or injured, you can find yourself with a condition known as wrist tendonitis.
The symptoms usually include weakness, swelling, and pain, especially near the outer edges of the wrist.
Identifying the Source of Your Wrist Pain
The conditions above are some common sources of wrist pain, but they’re not the only ones out there. Plenty of other possible causes exist — including arthritis, ganglion cysts, acute injuries, and more.
In any case, the best way to identify your wrist pain is to check with your doctor. At an appointment, they can use a variety of tests to gain a deeper understanding of your wrist health.
For example, they may:
- Inspect your wrist for swelling and tender spots
- Check your grip strength and range of motion
- Use X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans to get a detailed look at your bones, ligaments, and tendons
Benefits of Wrist Pain Massage: Why Try It?
If the culprit behind your wrist pain is overuse, massage therapy could boost your comfort and get you on track to feeling better.
To be more specific, a good massage can:
- Support the mobility in your wrists, fingers, and hands. The friction of massage can loosen up muscle tension and help your joints move more freely.
- Ease swelling and promote circulation. Gentle pressure and kneading can help support healthy blood flow.
- Improve your grip strength. Research has shown that a single session of hand and arm massage may increase grip endurance.
- Alleviate discomfort. Massage’s effects on stress, mood, and muscle stiffness may help to ease feelings of pain.
Wrist Massage Techniques: 4 Options for Quick Relief
To start kneading away wrist pain with self-massage, here are four simple methods that you can try today.
Wrist, Forearm, and Hand Release
Your hand muscles, forearm flexors, and forearm extensors can all affect the way your wrist feels and moves. For this reason, a quick massage over these areas may help to soothe your tension and pain.
Here are the steps to a simple forearm and hand release technique:
- Rest your arm on a desk or table, allowing your hand to hang over the edge.
- Begin with a light wrist stretch. Straighten your hand, and gently pull back on your fingers using your other hand. Go until you feel a stretch in the wrist and forearm, and hold for a few seconds.
- Release the stretch, and use your fingers to lightly knead your forearm muscles for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Then, use your knuckles to glide across your inner forearm muscles, beginning near the elbow and sliding down towards your wrist. Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Finish by gently squeezing each of the small muscles in your hand and fingers.
Two Tennis-Ball Massage
For an easy way to break up muscle tension, tennis balls are some of the handiest self-massage tools out there. And as strange as it may seem, two tennis balls in a sock or small bag can work wonders as a DIY wrist and forearm massage.
Here’s how to do it:
- Insert two massage or tennis balls into a long sock, so they’re secured in place side by side.
- Place the two tennis balls on a table or desk. Then, rest your forearm in between them.
- Slowly roll up and down to begin massaging the muscles.
- As you roll, use your other hand to rotate your affected arm. This can help you more easily target your forearm extensors, inner forearm muscles, and any other tense areas.
- Pause and hold the pressure over any trigger points or muscle knots for 10 seconds or so. (For deeper relief, you can even add a stretch by moving your hand from side to side.)
- Continue to roll for up to 10 minutes.
Use a Massage Gun
A massage gun is a powerful device that uses percussion therapy — which might seem intense when it comes to an area as delicate as your wrist. But with the proper attachment and technique, using one of these tools can help bring you some much-needed relief.
To try a massage gun for wrist pain, simply follow these steps:
- Start by attaching a broad, soft head to your massage gun. Then, turn the device on to a light pressure setting.
- Sit down and rest your arm in your lap, with your elbow bent and palm pointing toward the sky.
- Gently glide the massage gun along your inner forearm at an angle for 10 to 20 seconds. (Note: Be sure to focus the massage gun on your muscles. Avoid directly massaging bones, the wrist joint, or the crux of the arm.)
- Then, take a few seconds to massage across the muscle fibers for a cross-friction massage.
- Flip your arm over, and repeat with the outer forearm muscles. Be sure to spend a few extra seconds breaking up any knots you come across.
- Continue to massage for up to two minutes.
Forearm Flexor Self-Myofascial Release
With the help of a foam roller, you can use self-myofascial release to relieve wrist-related muscle tension. Try this easy foam rolling exercise to get started:
- Find a comfortable place to sit down, and place the foam roller in front of you.
- Lean forward so that you’re on all fours, and rest your affected forearm on the roller with your palm facing down.
- Starting at your wrist, slowly roll forward and back to massage the flexor muscles for a few seconds. Use the weight of your upper body to deepen the pressure as needed.
- Flex and extend your hand as you roll to work deeper into the muscle tissue.
- Repeat for up to two minutes.
Consider Sports Massage Therapy
If you’re dealing with wrist pain as a result of chronic overuse — whether it’s from your job, the gym, or an arm-focused hobby — a sports massage therapist may be able to help.
Using a specific set of techniques, they can break up knots, promote muscle recovery, and help you keep wrist pain at bay.
In a session, a massage therapist will ask you about your wrist health, including any habits, activities, or conditions that may be affecting it. Then, they’ll use those details to choose effective techniques that can safely target your pain points.
Some of the main sports massage techniques include:
- Friction massage to help break up tight adhesions in muscle tissue
- Stretching, effleurage, and petrissage to decrease general muscle tension
- Vibration or oscillation to promote overall muscle health and recovery
Risks and Considerations of Wrist Pain Massage
Wrist massage can be a powerful tool for relieving tightness, improving range of motion, and easing pain.
But to keep your wrist healthy (and avoid doing any additional damage), there are some key tips to remember:
- Focus on massaging your muscle tissue, rather than your wrist bones. Since bones aren’t made of soft tissue, it can be unnecessary and even painful to massage them. Instead, loosen up your wrist tension by working on your forearm and hand muscles.
- Avoid putting pressure or friction on a fresh injury. Do you have an acute wrist injury, like a sprain, tear, or fracture? If so, it’s probably best to avoid massage until you’ve healed up and gotten the OK from your healthcare team.
How Often Should You Use Massage?
If your wrist pain stems from everyday soreness or achy muscles, you can use simple hands-on massage up to a few times per day.
However, it’s best to use more powerful tools — such as massage guns or deep tissue massage balls — a little more sparingly. By limiting their use, you can avoid overworking or aggravating any muscles.
Finally, check with your doctor about massage if you’re dealing with any wrist-affecting conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. They can give you personalized guidance on how, when, and how often to use massage.
Don’t Forget About Other Wrist Pain Remedies
While wrist pain massage is one of the easiest methods for in-the-moment relief, it’s not the only way to start feeling better. In fact, there are several other wrist pain remedies that may be worth adding to your recovery routine.
For example, you can try:
Rest, Ice, and OTC Pain Medication
Rest can be your best friend when your wrist is suffering from a recent bout of overuse. If possible, be sure to take some time off from activities that may be putting extra stress on the joint.
In the meantime, you can consider other remedies — such as ice, heat therapy, or over-the-counter meds — to soothe your pain as needed.
Try Wrist Pain Exercises
When it comes to long-term healing, certain exercises can strengthen your wrist, boost flexibility, and help you prevent future pain.
To get started, here are some simple stretches to try:
Wrist Flexion and Extension
This stretch can help lengthen and relax the muscles around your wrist. Start by:
- Resting your arm, palm down, on a table or desk. Allow your hand to hang over the edge.
- Lift your hand so that your fingers point up at the ceiling, and use your other hand to push back on your palm for a stretch.
- Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, and slowly lower your hand.
- Use your opposite hand to gently push down on your fingers until you feel a light stretch in your outer forearm.
- Hold for 3 to 5 seconds more.
Wrist circles are an incredibly simple and useful dynamic stretch. By doing them regularly, you can improve mobility while boosting your forearm and wrist strength.
Here are the steps:
- Hold your affected arm out in front of you.
- With your fingers extended (or your hand balled up in a fist), slowly rotate your hand in the clockwise direction for ten reps.
- Repeat in the counterclockwise direction for another ten reps.
A prayer stretch is another easy option for breaking up the tension in your forearm flexors. Here’s how it works:
- With straight posture, place your palms together in front of your body, with your elbows out to the side.
- Slowly lower your hands until you feel a gentle stretch in your forearms.
- Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, repeating as needed throughout the day.
Use a Wrist Brace
A wrist brace can support healing by keeping your wrist in a neutral, stable position. And in some cases, it can even help with specific types of pain. For example, many people with carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis use a brace for extra protection and pain relief.
Wrist Pain Prevention
Once your pain starts to subside, certain prevention tips can help improve your wrist health for the long haul. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the best ways to offset your odds of wrist pain in the future:
- Support your bone health by eating plenty of calcium-rich foods.
- Do your best to avoid falls (since catching yourself with an outstretched palm can often lead to wrist injuries.)
- Use wrist guards and other protective equipment during sports, workouts, or other intense physical activity.
- If you’re an office worker, work on creating an ergonomic workspace that supports your wrist health. Invest in a wrist-friendly keyboard, use a comfortable mouse, and be mindful of keeping your hand in a neutral position while you work.
Whether it comes from arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or simple overuse, wrist pain can get in the way of your everyday routine. Fortunately, some gentle self-massage methods can help to alleviate tension and improve your comfort while you heal.
To recap, the techniques covered above include:
- Trying a quick hands-on massage for your forearm, wrist, and hand muscles
- Using a massage gun to work out muscle stiffness and trigger points
- Rolling your wrist and arm muscles using two tennis balls
- Breaking up flexor tension with a foam rolling session
Before trying any wrist massages or exercises, be sure to check with your doctor to make sure they’re right for you.
Not only can your physician help you stay safe, but they can also assist you in getting to the root of your pain. With their help, you can identify potential treatments and lifestyle changes to keep your wrist aches away for good.
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