Sometimes happy pastimes like gardening, golf, or tennis make our hands hurt. If you use your hands daily this can lead to stiff joints, wrists, and even a sore elbow. Many times, I have seen clients who thought they had arthritis, when all that was wrong were stiff muscles in their hands or forearms. Today I am discussing why your hands hurt and how to resolve that pain.
Wearing braces, wraps, and using lotions are just short-term remedies. While they may mask the pain, the physical cause is still there and every time you use your hands, you may be making it worse. The stiffness can begin in your hands and move up to the elbow, leading to tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, or elbow tendinitis. Again, braces and patches on the elbow are all temporary relief at best. Let’s dive into what is causing the pain and then how to resolve it.
What Causes the Pain and Stiffness?
There are twenty-six muscles from your elbow to the tips of your fingers. All of these muscles control your hand for gripping, making a fist, opening your hand, and rotating your hand. Many times, clients have come to me complaining about weakness in their hands, thinking they needed more strength. Unfortunately, every time they tried to strengthen their hands; the pain got worse. If this is you, what is making you feel weak? On top of your forearm, there are five muscles, collectively called the Extensor digitorum, that allow you to open your hand. On the bottom of your forearm are five muscles, the Flexor digitorum, that allow you to close your hand. When the Extensor digitorum is tight, it makes the Flexor digitorum work twice as hard. This can make you feel weak. No matter how much strength training you do, the weakness will not change, and it may get worse. These same muscles can cause pain when bending your wrist, in either direction.
If your pain is at the base of your thumb, it could be from the muscle between your thumb and index finger, the Thenar eminence. This is the triangle-shaped area between the thumb and index finger. For some people, they cannot pull their thumb away from their hand and it prevents them from gripping things better. The pain will show up at the base of the thumb and, of course, arthritis will be blamed. In fairness, arthritis can play a role, but the tightness of the muscle can make it much worse.
Finally, if rotating your hands causes wrist or elbow pain, this could be the muscles between the two bones in your forearm, named Interosseous muscles. These muscles allow the two bones to move in a rotating direction. When these muscles are tight, they can increase the torque on the wrist and/or the elbow leaving you with pain.
How to Resolve the Pain or Stiffness
Resolution is not hard once you understand why you hurt. Every day, I soften the muscles in my forearm several times a day. I can do it in my car while driving, talking to my friends on the phone, or just being anywhere in the world where I have at least one hand free. In my business, most therapists are forced to retire due to hand pain. It is ironic that they claim to fix your hand pain yet end up with pain so bad they have to quit working.
To soften your forearm only requires placing one hand on the opposite forearm. Using your thumb, press slowly and gently on various spots to feel for sore spots. We all have them so don’t be surprised. When you find one, maintain the pressure, breathe out and allow the muscle to relax. The temptation here is to press really hard once you find the spot. Let me tell you, you will NOT push it out! You will only bruise yourself and be more sore tomorrow. Continue to search and press all over your forearm until it is soft enough that you can easily feel the bones. As I always say to everyone, having a hardbody does not mean you are strong. It means you are stiff, like the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz. I guess that would make me Dorothy!
Common treatments I have seen for these aches and pains are braces, wraps, lotions, injections, and even surgery. Ever heard of carpal tunnel syndrome? I bet you all know someone who has dealt with that. Do you know anyone with elbow tendinitis? At the elbow, it would be called cubital tunnel syndrome. There is a surgery for that, too. If you know anyone suffering from these, please share this newsletter with them.
Below are two stretches that are great for your hands. I have many more stretches for the hands and if you need more help, I would be happy to share them.
Tips on Stretching When Your Hands Hurt
When your hands hurt, try stretching them before reaching for medication. All you need is a yoga strap and a tennis ball for the tennis ball massage. Give yourself about 15 minutes twice a day and you should see better results within 2 weeks. This, though, is a lifetime event. Think of your pet. they stretch every day and several times a day. Stretch when they stretch. Follow the videos below and free your knees. In my opinion, the calf stretch is the most important stretch a human can do. It will solve many issues of the body.
Stretching is more about feeling the muscles letting go than forcing them to stretch. If you are forcing the muscle, you could be doing strength training, not stretching. Make sure you are feeling the intended muscle stretching. If not, the form could be wrong. Holding for 5 seconds allows the brain to release the muscle before it senses any danger. Repeating the stretches 10 times allows the brain to learn it is safe for the muscle to move that way.
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About The Muscle Repair Shop
Drawing upon his personal experience as a former competitive athlete turned wheelchair, obese, and chronic pain sufferer, Muscle Repair Shop founder Butch Phelps decided to take his health into his own hands when at the age of 36 he was told he might not make it to his 40th birthday. Applying balanced nutrition advice from his doctor along with a sound exercise program, he went from 315 lbs. to 180 lbs. Motivated by his experience, he then acquired degrees in advanced therapeutic massage and aging sciences to help people eliminate chronic pain. This included applying his expertise in how people age, including the effects of dementia, anatomy, psychology, and the day-to-day struggles living as an older person to his practice and development of The Muscle Repair Shop’s one-of-a-kind Stretch n’ Release Technique.
Available through in-office and virtual coaching treatment sessions, this unique combination of stretching and breath work teaches the brain to release the emotional side of muscle tension and pain allows clients to find lasting relief and healing from stiffness, aches, injuries, and chronic pain. The at-home exercises come with customized instructional videos and virtual or in-office support, allowing clients to enjoy and experience life and sports as they did before limitations slowed or curtailed activities.