Stretch Your Wrists to Prevent RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Wrist stretches
Wrist stretches. Getty Images Credit: Alberto Guglielmi

Athletes know the value of stretching to prevent injuries. Computer work relies on an incredible, even athletic, performance from your body. You are asking your hands and wrists to repeat tasks not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands of times every day. Stretching is essential for athletes who train for an hour a day, doing around 100 repetitions on weight-training equipment. Just imagine how much students, writers or office workers (who “work out” for eight hours or more every day with their hands and wrists, performing about 50,000 repetitions at a keyboard) need to stretch their hands and wrists.

RSI Exercises

Give the skill outlined below a try for one week. Consider it a one-week experiment. Commit to following these simple steps every day of the week.​

How It Works: You need to stretch the tendons and muscles in your wrists daily. I’ll lead you through a simple stretch. You’ll do it in the morning before you start typing, at lunchtime and at the end of the day. This stretch will help keep your wrists from tightening up and causing problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, and other forms of repetitive stress injury (RSI).

Get Motivated: Hands and wrists are something we take for granted. Take a moment to think about how important using your hands and wrists are to your life. Think of all the things you use them for, like driving, cooking, playing with children, reading a book, picking up a glass. Imagine if you had pain every time you tried to do something. Let’s get working to prevent that pain from ever happening.

The Stretch

While standing, hold your arms straight out in front of you with your fingers extended, palms facing the ground. Next, raise both hands in the “stop” position (palms facing the wall in front of you) while keeping your arms straight. Hold this position for five seconds. Next, return your hands to the starting position and make a fist.

Hold for five seconds. Next, rotate your fist down, so the back of your hand is facing the wall in front of you and you can see your knuckles. Hold for five seconds. Finally, return to the starting position and relax your hands and fingers. Hold for five seconds. Repeat the whole series 10 times.

Remind Yourself

The hardest part of this skill is remembering to do it. The stretches only take a couple of minutes to complete; you just need to remember to do it. For this entire week, be determined to do this stretching series each day, three times a day. Print out some reminder cards, found under the “downloads” tab of this skill, and place them where you are sure to see them. Put a reminder on your chair when you leave for lunch and at the end of the day.​ Make a commitment: I will stretch my wrists three times a day every day this week.


Add about two minutes of stretching for the rest of your body to your stretching routine. Loosen up your shoulders, your back. Move your head from side to side. Stretch your back. You’ll feel more energized and have much less tension and pain.

Here is the whole program. Give each one a solid one-week try, and then come back and do the next one. 

Prevent RSI

  • If you already have wrist pain, fatigue or numbness, be sure to talk with your doctor. There are other stretches and things you can do, depending on the type of problem you have. If you work in an office, talk with your employer too — this is an occupational injury and should be treated very seriously.
  • Don’t overdo the stretching. You should feel a gentle, easy stretch — if there is any pain, stop immediately. Do not “bounce” the stretch or force it.
  • Be determined. People may think you are a little crazy when you stand up and do some stretches. Let them. Remind yourself that it is crazy to expose your body to damage because you did not take a simple action.
  • If you are uncomfortable stretching at your desk or in a public place or if you find your day just gets away from you, stretch next to your car when you arrive at work or school and before you leave for the day. If necessary, you could even stretch just before leaving home and right when you arrive home every day.
  • It may sound silly, but if you are looking for privacy for your stretching, nothing beats a bathroom stall. That is a good place to stretch after lunch.