After a wrist injury, you should perform rehabilitation exercises, but only as soon as pain allows. Here we explain exercises to improve mobility and strengthen the muscles in the wrist, hand, and forearm.
Wrist stretching & mobility exercises
The following are examples of wrist mobility exercises. You can do these exercises a few times a day as long as they are not painful, or make your injury worse.
Wrist flexor stretch
This stretches the wrist flexor muscles. Pull back on your fingers until you feel a stretch. Hold for 10 – 12 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Assisted Supinator Stretch
This stretch requires the help of a partner or therapist to stretch the muscles which supinate the wrist (turn the hand over).
- Lie in a relaxed position with the upper arm supported
- The therapist fully pronates your hand (so the palm faces down)
- You should feel a stretch in your wrist and forearm
- Hold this position for up to a minute provided it does not cause pain
- You can also do this with the elbow bent which reduces the stretch on the biceps muscle, isolating the supinator
- Biceps Brachii
Prolonged Wrist Stretches
This exercise aims to increase the range of motion into pronation and supination. Pronation is the movement of turning the hand so the palm faces downwards. Supination is the opposite movement so the palm ends facing upwards.
- Biceps Brachii
- Pronator Teres
- Pronator Quadratus
Wrist strengthening exercises
Putty Exercises (Various)
You can use putty to strengthen the small muscles of the wrist and hand. This is useful after injuries such as a fracture to any of the small bones in the hand or a wrist, thumb, or finger sprain.
- Grip in both hands and pull apart to work on wrist deviation strength
- You can hold it in one hand and twist with the other to work on wrist extension
- You can squeeze the putty to improve grip strength
Muscles Worked: This depends on the exact exercise, but generally, the intrinsic muscles of the hand are worked to grip it, and then the forearm muscles control wrist extension, flexion, and radial and ulna deviation.
Ulna & Radial Deviation
Ulna and radial deviation are the movements of tilting the wrist from one side to the other. Radial deviation is moving the thumb side of the hand down towards the wrist and ulna deviation is moving the little finger side down.
To work on ulna deviation, the athlete holds a weighted bar in the hand with the arm by their side so that the palm faces inwards and the weight is at the back, as shown.
The athlete then tilts the wrist so that the little finger moves upwards. To work radial deviation, keep the arm stays in the same position but the weight is moved to be in front of the hand. Pull the wrist up so that the thumb moves towards the wrist
Wrist flexion exercise
You can perform this exercise with a dumbbell as shown, or with a resistance band. It is great for strengthening the wrist flexor muscles of the forearm after wrist and elbow injuries.
- To strengthen the muscles which flex the wrist, the athlete sits with the forearm supported and palm facing upwards.
- Starting with the wrist bend downwards and a small weight in the hand, the athlete pulls the wrist upwards, keeping the forearm flat on the table.
- They then slowly reverse this movement.
The muscles worked are the Flexor Carpi Radialis, Flexor Carpi Ulnaris, Flexor Digitorum Superficialis, and Flexor Pollicis Longus.
Wrist extension exercise
Wrist extension exercises are rarely used in weight training programmes, although it is a great exercise for the rehabilitation of injuries such as tennis elbow and sprains/fractures of the wrist.
- Support the arm on a bench or table as shown, with the palm facing downwards.
- Pull the wrist back so that the dumbbell moves towards the body.
- Slowly return to that starting position.
Muscles Worked: Extensor Carpi Ulnaris, Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis, Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus, Extensor Pollicis Longus, Extensor Digitorum Communis.
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Finger Exercises with Rubber Band
Rubberband exercises are a great way for strengthening the finger extensors. They are good for treating tennis elbow injuries as the same muscles cause pain at the elbow, and control finger extension.
- Place a rubber band around the fingers and thumb
- The athlete spreads the fingers apart as far as possible
- You can do this on all fingers at once, or between two individual fingers
- Extensor Digitorum Communis
- Extensor Pollicis Longus