In July and August, I wrote about the first two components in the trifecta of writer’s pain: I taught the Neck Figure 8 for neck and shoulder pain and two different drills for relieving headaches. This month, we are going to travel down the arms to talk about carpal tunnel and repetitive motion syndromes.

Previously I explained the importance of moving your eyes throughout the day, altering the position of your monitor, and standing up to change positions. The hands, wrists, elbows, and arms suffer as much, if not more, than the rest of your body from being in the same position 8—or 10 or 12hours a day. The limited motion of striking keys and moving the mouse isn’t enough to offset those effects. And lack of movement transfers into pain. Therefore, the way to get rid of the pain is to restore the movement.

I have used two drills successfully to get people out of wrist guards. As always, the rule remains, never move into pain. Slow down the movement or make it smaller to keep yourself out of pain. Unlike with neck pain and headacheswhere most of my clients get a significant (if not complete) drop in pain instantlydue to the high level of overuse, the wrist and hand drills sometimes take longer before they are effective.

Wrist Glides
– Sit up nice and tall in a chair, pushing the crown of the head up through the ceiling
– Hold your arms by your sides, elbows at about a 90-degree angle. Forearms are parallel to the floor
– With your hands relaxed, glide your wrists side-to-side. Your upper arm doesn’t move, it only rotates. When you glide your arm away from the body, the outer edge of the wrist is leading the motion. When you are bringing your arm back in, the side of the wrist near the thumb is leading
– Forearms stay parallel with the floor the entire time
– The wrist does NOT have to move a lot side to side, but it does, can, and MUST move. (This tends to be really difficult for people, so slow it down and make the motion smaller, but stick with it)
– Next, repeat the drill. However, this time move the wrists up and down (think Karate Kid“wax on, wax off”). On the way up, lead with the top of the wrist, on the way down, lead with the bottom of the wrist. Up and down are generally MUCH simpler

Hand Figure 8s
This drill is meant to get the wrist bones talking better to the bones that connect the wrist to the fingers. You should feel the stretching on the back of the hand
– Sit up nice and tall in a chair, pushing the crown of the head up through the ceiling
– Arms should be resting by your sides, elbows at about a 90-degree angle; forearms parallel to the floor
– Bend your wrists so that your palms are facing away from youalmost as if you are about to push something. Fingers are slightly spaced apart and relaxed
– Now, visualize slowing circling your hands as if each was a fan, leading with your index finger. Both forearms rotate in, backs of the hands end up almost facing one another while your fingers are stretched pointing away from you, then down towards the ground, in towards your stomach, and lastly pointing back up to the sky. Your elbows will invariably flare out while you do this, which is necessary to get the hands moving properly. Each circle should take about 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times in that direction
– Next, do the same thing, but in the other direction, leading with the pinky finger. This time, with your hand as fans, start with palms facing you, the index fingers first toward the stomach, then the ground, then away from you, up towards the ceiling, and back around so your palms are facing you again. Each circle should take about 10 seconds, and repeat 3 times

If these exercises are really tough for you, that’s OK. The Hand Figure 8 is one of the most difficult drills to master. People generally have forgotten how to move that part of the body, after many years typing in a single position. Repeat these drills up to three times a dayor any time you think your hands and wrists need a break.

Simple drills, in just minutes a day, can help alleviate some of the most vexing pain for writers: head, neck/shoulders, and wrist/hands . How cool is that? Keep me posted on your progress. I’ll be back next month with more theory.


Jen Waak is a Seattle-based movement coach who uses a system that combines eastern philosophy with western medicine to reprogram the nervous system and get people out of pain, moving better, and feeling younger.


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  1. […] aches and pains that befell writers (or anyone that sits at a computer a lot). I talked about Carpal Tunnel, and what simple drills you can use to alleviate the […]

  2. […] like hermits at our computers. Spending an extended amount of time click-clacking away can cause wrist, hand, and arm pain from repetitive use. If you’re feeling the pain, but can’t seem to quit the computer, look into […]


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