Protect Your Paws

A few weeks ago, I started with achiness in my hands and wrists.  The temperatures around here dropped below zero, so I blamed the soreness on the weather.  Well, it did not go away right away.  So I thought to myself, what have I been doing that has been causing the achiness?  I knew I needed to change something.

I started to pay close attention to how I was using my hands throughout the day.  What positions they were in when I was performing tasks.  What activity I was doing when they felt worse?  I did not realize how much undue stress I was placing on my hands and wrist.  No wonder they were crying out to me, begging me to pay attention to them by causing me discomfort.

There were two main points I focused on.  When I changed my habits related to the position of my hands and grip during activities, the soreness went away.

1)      Position

Neutral Position.  neutral wrist position

When your wrist is in the neutral position (straight), you are less prone to injury or repetitive stress.  Obviously we cannot perform all our daily activities without bending the wrist, nor should we.  However, you want to avoid performing strenuous or repetitive activity with the wrist bent up or down.

Palm Open.  When your palm is flat and fingers are mostly straight (a slight curve towards the palm is natural), you are placing less strain on the fingers, hand and wrist.  Whenever possible carry objects with your palms open and flat.  For example, to pick up a bowl or mug use two hands and keep the palm open wrapping the fingers around the bowl/mug.

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Posture.  Pay close attention to the posture of your entire body.  For example, when sitting at your computer, poor posture of the shoulders and head will place undue strain on your hands and wrists as they type away at the keyboard.

2)      Grip

Reduce Your Force Most people grip with more force than needed to perform tasks such as writing, carrying objects, and using a walker.  Relax your grip and use the least amount of force needed to place less strain and fatigue on your muscles and joints.

Holding Handlesoverhand grasp across palm

Hold handles straight across the palm, not diagonally.  For example when cutting with a knife or brushing your teeth use an overhand grasp with the handle straight across the palm.

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One of the main activities I had to pay close attention to was when I used the iPad.  We use the iPad to document on each patient and this is a repetitive activity I perform throughout the day.  I found myself pointing my second finger with my wrist bent and the rest of my fingers clenched just to tap the screen.

I changed this habit by not pointing, but holding my hand with my palm open, fingers straight and wrist in a close to neutral position.  I tap the screen alternating fingers.  When not using my iPad stand, I make sure I hold the iPad resting on my other hand with my palm open.

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I also noticed when working in the kitchen, I was placing undue strain on my hands.  For example when wringing out the dish rag, I was using a tight grip with a twisting motion bending my wrists all the way to get all the water out.  I was picking up heavy pots and pans with my fingers and wrists bent with a tight grip in order not to drop them.

I started using an open hand to press the water out of the dish rag or sponge.  I use both hands with palms open to lift bowls and dishes.  I make sure I am using a mitt instead of just hot pads to pick up hot dishes so that I can hold them with an open palm.

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Does this mean I never point my finger, or wring out a dish cloth anymore? No.  It means that when I do perform these activities, I am more aware of the position I am in or the grip pressure I am using to perform the activity.

Other Tips to Remember:

1)      Avoid repeating the same hand movement for long period of times.  Alternate activities or stop and stretch your hands and wrist every 20 minutes.

2)      Use the strongest and largest joint possible to do the task.  For example, use your forearm or shoulder to carry in the grocery bag instead of grasping the bag with your fingers.

3)      Use long, sweeping/circular motion when dusting, washing windows, or vacuuming so that more of the motion originates from the shoulder instead of the wrist/hand.

4)      Keep your hands warm.

5)      Exercise.  This allows for good circulation and good strength. The stronger your arms, legs, and core muscles are the less work your hands and wrists have to do to complete a task.

I challenge you today to pay close attention to your hands and wrists. 

What position are your hands in when you carry your groceries, brush your teeth, pick up your cup, cut your food, read a book, or open a door?  How can you change your habits to best protect your hands and wrists?

Happy Day! Here’s to Keeping your Hands and Wrists Healthy and Happy!

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