Todd Kuslikis

Todd Kuslikis

MMT, MPA
Knee Pain Specialist and Injury Prevention Expert

Exercises for Wrist Tendonitis To Help Your Pain Diminish

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It’s getting harder and harder to avoid technology and we are spending more time typing, using a mouse, and scrolling on our phones.

You may have also noticed that the more you use your phone, computer, or tablet the more you experience wrist pain!

This article will cover exercises for wrist tendonitis to help not only improve your pain but also help keep that pain from coming back! Hallelujah!

 

What is Wrist Tendonitis?

Wrist tendonitis—sometimes spelled tendinitis—is the inflammation (swelling) of one or more wrist tendons. Tendons are strong fibrous (thick) tissue that connects your muscles to your bones. 

For such a small space, there are a lot of tendons in your wrist, but they can essentially be divided into two categories:  

  • Tendons involved in wrist flexion, the action of bending the wrist forward/inward. These tendons also help in rotating the wrist and bend your fingers.
  • Tendons involved in wrist extension, the action of bending the wrist backward. These tendons also help move the wrist toward the thumb or the little finger and extend your fingers.

Common causes include:

  • Repetitive hand and wrist use from activities like sports, work, and household chores, and using devices like our phones, tablets, and computers
  • Sudden high-impact activities such as from a fall, car accident
  • Changes in connective tissue health secondary to age, poor health, or previous injury
  • Being hypermobile 
  • Metabolic or autoimmune diseases such as gout, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity
  • Medications such as NSAIDs and cortisone that affect tissue quality

 

How Your Desk and Mouse Could be Leading to Overuse Tendinitis

Unfortunately, we can not always avoid situations that increase our risk for wrist tendonitis. One of those being working at a desk. Whether you are still working or are retired and use a computer for leisure, typing and using a mouse can cause a lot of inflammation in your wrists! 

Here are some ergonomic tips for wrist health when working at a desk and using a mouse:

exercises for wrist tendonitis | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Stand or sit with your elbow bent abound  90-110 degrees with your shoulders relaxed

exercises for wrist tendonitis | Feel Good Life with Coach ToddKeep your wrist in a neutral position when using your mouse. Try moving your shoulder rather than your wrist when adjusting the mouse. You may also want to add padding in front of your mouse to allow your wrist to stay neutral rather than keeping it in an extended position

exercises for wrist tendonitis | Feel Good Life with Coach ToddKeep your wrist in a neutral position when typing. Depending on your keyboard you may want to add padding here as well to help keep your wrist from staying in an extended position

Finally, don’t forget to take breaks! Give your wrists a rest throughout the day!

 

How Do I Know if I Have Wrist Tendonitis vs. Carpal Tunnel?

exercises for wrist tendonitis | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Tendonitis is inflammation of your tendons which means that you may notice:

  • Swelling around the wrist joint and possibly into the hand or forearm
  • Heat or warmth near affected tendons
  • Minor to severe pain that increases with movement
  • Trouble using the wrist with activities such as typing or holding your phone
  • A sensation of grinding or popping when moving your wrist

Carpal Tunnel is when your median nerve is pinched. With carpal tunnel you may notice:

  • Numbness and tingling in the palm of your hand, especially in your thumb and pointer finger. 
  • Wrist and hand pain as well, especially at night 
  • Weakness in your hand 

 

Feel Good Life - Coach ToddTreatment Step One: Rest

Inflammation is happening in your wrist because it’s cranky and needs a break. Just like we need a break when we feel burnt out, so do our wrists! Especially if they are in pain.

Before you stop using your wrist all together here’s a big disclaimer about rest: this is only the first step and should only be done to help calm down pain! Repair of tendon fibers happens when the tendon is moved. Be sure to rest, but balance rest with performing small tasks to get those tendons moving. 

Here are a few ways to help those wrists rest (That’s a tongue twister, can you say “wrists rest” 5 times fast?):

  • If possible, take a break from activities that cause pain. Sorry, this probably can’t get you out of work, but if you do find yourself playing a game on your phone or scrolling through apps on your phone it might be time for a break
  • Try using splints, slings, or soft straps around the wrist. Wearing a splint during the day is helpful, but it can actually be beneficial to sleep with the splint at night as well!
  • Try applying a cold pack to your wrist for 5 minutes every couple of hours

 

Feel Good Life - Coach ToddTreatment Step Two: Strengthening Exercises for Wrist Tendonitis

Here are two things that are important when it comes to exercises for wrist tendonitis:

Eccentric exercises.

This is when the muscle contracts, then slowly lengthen under tension. Not sure what that means? Think about when you go downstairs. Your thigh muscles have to slowly lower you down. This is an example of an eccentric movement.

These types of exercises are not only helpful for strengthening, but research has shown that this type of exercise limits inflammation and is beneficial for tendon healing35

Low weights, high reps.

Exercising with lighter weights and higher repetitions is more beneficial than using a heavy load and fewer repetitions. Remember, these muscles are small so it doesn’t take much to strengthen them!

 

Exercises for Wrist Tendonitis

Feel Good Life - Coach ToddWrist ABCs

exercises for wrist tendonitis | Feel Good Life with Coach ToddMake a fist or hold onto a small ball. Moving from your wrist, write out the letters of the alphabet. If the alphabet seems boring, try writing out the name of your favorite animal, color, ice cream flavor etc. Make sure you are only using your wrist to move, not your forearm or shoulder!

Use this as a dynamic exercise for wrist tendonitis to warm up for the rest of your exercises. 

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Feel Good Life - Coach Todd

Knuckle Lift and Lower

exercises for wrist tendonitis | Feel Good Life with Coach ToddSit at a chair with armrests or at a table where you can rest your forearm with your wrist off the end. Sit with your palm facing the floor. Lift your wrist up on a count of one, then slowly allow your wrist to lower down to a neutral position for a count of five

If you can perform this without pain, you can increase the challenge of the exercise by adding a lightweight (or soup can!). If you use a weight, perform the same wrist movement, except this time start by extending your wrist, then add the weight, and finally slowly lower down. Then hold the weight in your uninjured hand and start the process again: extend the wrist, add the weight, slowly lower the wrist to a neutral position. 

Don’t rush lowering your wrist down. That is the critical part of this exercise for wrist tendonitis! Up on a count of one, down on a slow count of five.

You will feel a burn on the back of your forearm as you are strengthening your wrist extensors. 

Try for 3 sets of ten, resting between each set.

Remember the key here is high reps and low weight. 

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Feel Good Life - Coach Todd

Palm Lift and Lower

exercises for wrist tendonitis | Feel Good Life with Coach ToddSame concept as exercise two, but this time flip your arm so your palm faces the ceiling. Sit at a chair with armrests or at a table where you can rest your forearm with your wrist off the end. Lift your wrist up on a count of one, then slowly allow your wrist to lower down to a neutral position

If you can perform this without pain, you can increase the challenge of the exercise by adding a lightweight. If you use a weight perform the same wrist movement, except this time start by flexing your wrist, then add the weight, and finally slowly lower down. Then hold the weight in your uninjured hand and start the process again: flex the wrist, add the weight, slowly lower the wrist to a neutral position. 

Don’t rush lowering your wrist down. That is the critical part of this exercise for wrist tendonitis! Up on a count of one, down on a slow count of five.

You will feel a burn on the front of your forearm as you are focusing on increasing your wrist flexor strength.

Perform 3 sets of ten, resting between each set.

Feel Good Life

Feel Good Life - Coach ToddShoulder Squeezes 

exercises for wrist tendonitis | Feel Good Life with Coach ToddWe all have the best intentions of maintaining good posture when we sit down, but there’s something about spending several hours at a computer that just leaves us hunched over. Posture plays an important role and is part of our exercises for wrist tendonitis.

Start by sitting up straight in a chair. Then, pull your shoulder blades down and back like you are trying to hold an orange between your shoulder blades (the bones in the back of your shoulders). 

Hold for 2 seconds and perform two 2 sets of 10.

Or, a great habit to get in is performing a few shoulder squeezes (2-5 times) whenever you need a break at your desk and just spread it out throughout the day. For example, perform a few reps once an hour, or during commercial breaks, or after you finish a task at work. 

 

Recovery Time for Wrist Tendonitis 

Recovery time ultimately depends on the severity of your symptoms. In general, you can expect to recover from a tendon injury in 6 weeks with proper rest time followed by a restorative program performing specific exercise for wrist tendonitis.

The best gauge for recovering from a wrist injury is to pay attention to your symptoms. Milder wrist tendonitis may heal in as little as 4 weeks, whereas more severe chronic cases may take up to 12 weeks or more. 

If you do not listen to your body and keep pushing through the pain tendonitis can become chronic. This means you have an even longer recovery time, so it is important to take steps now to help with your pain rather than ignore your pain. 

You may not be able to completely avoid typing and using technology, but you can perform these exercises for wrist tendonitis to help stop and prevent wrist pain

Let me know down in the comments who these exercises go for you!

To you health!

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