Home Exercise and Rehab
Gina John is a Pilates Practitioner and Registered Osteopath who has spent many years offering help and advice, especially to the over 50 age group.
She is founder of The Osprey Clinic in the St. Johns Wood area of London and now specialises in Home Exercise and Rehabilitation Programmes. For further advice on exercising safely, and a selection of exercise films for general fitness and medical conditions, visit the website: www.home-exercise-rehab.com
This month: Which exercises would help to strengthen hands and wrists, and ease stiffness and pain?
A: A common problem for people with mobility issues is the over-dependence on the upper body for moving from one position to another. Particularly if you are wheelchair-bound, or if you have arthritis in the lower extremity joints, strengthening the upper back, shoulders, wrists and hands will be of prime importance.
If you suffer with stiffness and pain in your hands and wrists, it is prudent to consult an Osteopath or Physiotherapist who will determine if this is just a muscular problem or if there is an underlying joint disease, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Osteoarthritis. An X-ray may be necessary to provide a full diagnosis. In patients, who have been diagnosed with arthritic problems in one or two joints, it is possible that there is also arthritis in other stiff and painful joints.
Manual therapy, ultrasound and exercise are effective treatments for muscle pains and the symptoms associated with Osteoarthritis, whereas in cases of Rheumatoid Arthritis drug therapy with Steroids is usually required. Injection therapy into the joint or adjacent tendons may also provide symptomatic relief. Exercise may be possible depending on the severity of the symptoms. Certainly research suggests that most patients diagnosed with Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis will benefit from the prescription of exercise.
When starting to exercise it is important to consider that the many small intrinsic muscles in the hand and extrinsic muscles which descend from the elbow and cross the wrist are weak. It may take 2-3 months to reach your goal of being confident in using them to manoeuvre your body without pain. However, with a target of performing exercises 5-7 days per week, you will start to feel the benefits within 2 weeks. Unfortunately, with the constant requirement to overwork your wrists and hands in changing your posture or position, straining is always a risk. It is therefore, necessary to rest and avoid overworking the upper body, if you feel tired or unwell. And of course, keeping a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water also helps to keep our muscles in good shape!
It is important to discontinue any exercise which causes pain and consult your General Practitioner or a physiotherapist for further advice.
The following stretching exercises can be performed 2 – 3 daily, to relive the stiffness in your wrists.
Strengthening the shoulders as well as the arms in general will help you to relieve the stress on your hands and wrists, particularly in view of your dependence on your upper body and extremities. The following exercises are designed to help strengthen the entire upper extremity when performed correctly. So, ensure you maintain a strong upright posture and keep pressing your shoulders down towards your hips while performing the exercises. It is also beneficial to keep pulling in your abdominal muscles, by scooping back your navel towards the spine, to maintain the correct posture and enable you to anchor down the shoulders effectively.
Please send your questions for future columns, or feedback, by email to Gina John on email@example.com
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