Gifts for your wrists and hands

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like running, skiing, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

Wrists and Hands

Did you know a handshake is a better predictor of premature death than traditional blood-pressure testing? According to a study published in the Lancet, a weak handshake can signal an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Further implications of grip strength include protection from old-age disability, better overall strength in other muscle groups, and prediction of mortality, disability, disease complications, and increased length of hospital stay. In order to produce adequate grip strength, you must present good wrist, forearm, hand, and finger health!

Each of the wrists and hands is a complex structure. The wrist joint is comprised of the two forearm bones, 8 carpal (wrist) bones, and the proximal ends of 5 metacarpal (hand) bones. The articulations between these many bones allow for range of motion in 3 planes (flexion/extension, pronation/supination, and lateral flexion/extension), and the joint is stabilized by an intricate system of ligaments. Optimal wrist function allows for load bearing and load suspension as well as full range of motion with control.

One hand contains 5 metacarpal (hand) bones and 14 phalanges (finger bones). These create very fragile joints that are controlled by intrinsic muscles (with the muscle belly in the hand) or extrinsic muscles (with the muscle belly in the forearm with tendons extending into the hand). 3 nerves control the innervation of these hand and wrist muscles. The hand sits at the terminus of the arm – it’s so important that the sole function of the shoulder and arm complex is to control the position of the hand!

The dexterity humans possess in their hands and fingers allows us to complete complex tasks such as pinching between thumbs and fingers, gripping, and isolating single finger movements. This intricate motor control sets us apart from other animals.

Beyond the internal anatomical structures, it’s also important to consider the superficial features of the hands including skin and nails. The skin that covers the back of the hand (dorsal) is very different from the skin that covers the palm. Dorsal skin is thinner and more pliable, attached to the hand loosely through blood vessels. The palmar skin is much thicker and is tightly connected to the underlying fascia to increase stability and gripping ability. The nails located at the end of each finger are intimately connected to the most distal (farthest) phalanges (finger bones). They offer protection for these bones as well as contribute to finger dexterity.

Humans are extremely dependent on hand and wrist function. If you’ve ever lost the ability to fully use one (or both) for a short time, you notice very quickly how many actions are affected! Things as simple as brushing your teeth, stirring a pot on the stove, or getting up from the ground all become more difficult. Take the time to work on your wrist and hand strength and mobility and you will reap the benefits.


Visual Inspection:  How do they look?

  • Are your hands flat and relaxed when on the floor or wall or do some of the fingers bend?
  • Are your nails or the skin on your hands cracked and dry?
  • Do your joints in your fingers look swollen or enlarged?
  • Is there any discoloration to indicate poor circulation or skin dysfunction?


Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Can you make a tight fist with all your fingers and thumb?
  • Can you touch and pinch your thumb to each of your fingers?
  • Can you rotate your wrist in all directions and spread your fingers?
  • Can you isolate single finger movements? ie. peace sign or ‘Spock’ sign


Sensory Inspection: How do they feel?

  • Any numbness in fingers or thumb?
  • Do your fingers feel cold? hot?
  • Can you feel smooth, gliding movements with finger flexion and extension?
  • Any cracking or popping?

Gifts for Your Wrists and Hands!

#1 Roll with ball

Place a small ball (smooth or spiky) on a table and roll throughout your entire palm. Explore the different digits and areas of your palm. Try rolling the back of the forearm too, on the table or against a wall.


#2 Wrist flexion and extension stretch

Use your opposite hand to stretch your wrist into flexion (towards the palm) and extension (towards the back of the hand). Hold for at least 30 seconds.


#3 Wrist lateral and medial flexion stretch

Use your opposite hand to explore lateral movements, bending the wrist towards the thumb and then the pinky.


#4 Finger stretches

Isolate your fingers from the wrist and explore the range of motion. Stretch all the fingers together in flexion and extension, then isolate each finger.


#5 Elastic band stretch

Place an elastic band around your thumb and all your fingers. Gently pull the band apart to work your hand extensors. This reverses the ‘gripping’ flexion motion.


#6 Grip work

As noted above, grip strength is a strong predictor of overall health. Work on your grip strength by holding a kettlebell or other object at your side, tightly squeezing a ball, or hanging from a bar. Grip is a highly neural-demanding function, and is affected by fatigue and dehydration. Consider testing grip strength and its implications. A grip dynamometer can be used to provide an objective analysis. Some athletes test daily.


#7 Hand and nail care

Massage your fingers and hands together every day with lotion. Keep your nails trimmed and healthy. Take care of any cuts, dry spots, warts or eczema.

#8 Gentle loading into wrists progressing to full weight bearing in plank and/or push up

A healthy wrist joint should allow you to load it with your body weight. Start in an incline position with your hands against the wall or a counter. Progress towards the ground until you can hold an all fours position, and eventually a plank or pushup.

#9 Arm bars

Arm bars are one of the best gifts you can give your wrists and shoulders! An arm bar isometrically loads the shoulder and wrist joints, requiring strength and stability of all the smaller muscles. The kettlebell should rest gently on the back of your wrist, and your wrist position should be straight. Slight movements of the arm are natural but the load should be comfortable to control.

  • Roll to your back and press the kettlebell up over your chest with a straight wrist.
  • Extend the opposite arm and leg onto the ground.
  • Roll away from the arm with the kettlebell, allowing it to rotate until it sits directly above your shoulder. A bent knee can support you on the ground.
  • Pack the shoulder away from your ear and let the load sink into your shoulder socket.
  • Hold for 6-8 breaths then reverse and repeat on the other side.


#10 Farmer’s Carry

The farmer’s carry relies on grip strength and core stability. Hold equal kettlebells or weights in each hand. Stand tall and go for a slow, controlled walk. Weight should help set your shoulders in a neutral position at your sides and wrists should be straight. Only walk as far as you can control with strong neutral posture and confident grip.


#11 Desk ergonomics

Desk, chair, and keyboard height contribute to wrist function. Make sure your neck and shoulders can remain relaxed (the desk surface is not too high) and that you can provide adequate support for the heels of your hands. Your hands should not rest in too much extension.



Give your wrists and hands some of these gifts this season. You may just live a little longer!

Written by: Briana Kelly and Sheila Hamilton December 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.


Put some grip in your shake!

Copyright: <a href=’’>3dagentur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Dynamic Aging – Katy Bowman Copyright 2017 p. 146,

Easy Strength – Dan John and Pavel copyright 2011 P. 228, 229