Physical Therapy Exercises for Wrist Strength and Flexibility

Physical Therapy, Hand Injuries


Whether you lift weights, swing a golf club, or type all day at your desk, your wrist makes those movements all possible. And like any other joint, your overworked wrist can become stiff and painful from those repetitive motions, making everyday tasks or workouts nearly impossible.

But you don’t have to stop working or give up your favorite sport. At-home physical therapy exercises can help you regain strength and flexibility in your wrist.

Wrist exercise you can try at home

Your wrist is a complex network of bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments. With it, you can grab and lift objects as well as hit a tennis ball. Yet its versatility makes it vulnerable to injury and painful orthopedic conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Arthritis can also affect the wrist.

As with many orthopedic ailments, physical therapy exercises can improve your range of motion and relieve pain. Here’s a list of some stretches to try:

Warm-up stretches

Get your wrist ready for a workout with these stretching exercises:

  • Rotate your wrist up, down and side to side. Repeat four times.
  • Stretch your fingers as far apart as you can. Relax, and stretch again. Repeat four times.
  • Gently pull back your thumb. Hold and release. Repeat four times.
  • Close your palms together in front of you below the chin. Lower your hands toward your waist, keeping your hands close to your midsection. You should feel a stretch under your forearms. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat two to four times.

Strength and flexibility exercises

These exercises can strengthen your wrist and increase your range of motion.

Wrist flex: Put your arm out in front of you, with your elbow straight. With your other hand, pull your wrist backward until you feel a mild to moderate stretch. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat with the other hand. Aim for three sets.

Wrist extension. With your arm in front of you and your palms facing upward, pull your hand down with your other hand until you feel a mild to moderate stretch. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat with your other wrist. Do three sets.

Tennis ball squeeze. Grab a tennis ball and squeeze it as hard as you can without causing too much pain. Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat 10 times.

Side-to-side stretch. With your hands and knees on the floor, place your fingers outward away from you in the opposite direction. Move side-to-side. Repeat 15 times.

Wall walks. Press your palms against a wall, and walk your hand up and down the surface.

Exercises with a light weight

Use a light weight for these exercises.

Wrist flexion. Sit with your forearm on a table or supportive surface. With the wrist bent downward and the palm facing upward, grab a light weight in your hand and pull the wrist up. Make sure to keep the forearm flat. Reverse the movement.

Wrist extension. Similar to a wrist flexion exercise, sit with your arm supported on a table or other surface. With your palm facing downward, move the weight toward your body. Return to the starting position.

Wrist exercise at your desk

Stuck at your desk all day? Loosen your wrists with these exercises.

Wrist circles. Hang your wrist off the edge of your desk. Make a clockwise circle, and then a counterclockwise circle. Repeat 10 times.

Wrist leans. With your palms facing up and your wrists bent toward you, lean forward and back. Another option is to rest your hands on the desk with palms facing up and fingers touching. Move from side to side.

If these exercises cause too much pain, stop immediately. Going beyond your pain limit could lead to more damage and discomfort. It may be wise to consult a physical therapist on exercises to get your wrist pain-free and flexible again.

Let us get your wrist in shape

At All Sports Physical Therapy, we work with your patients to relieve joint and muscle pain at every point in the body, including the wrist. We’ll develop a tailored physical therapy program to get your wrist in shape so you can enjoy your sport and get back to work. Contact us today for a consultation.

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