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If you type all day, this wrist stretch can help prevent pain

This simple pose will feel oh-so-good after a long day at the computer.
Woman stretching wrists
The wrist stretch on your hands and knees can help improve the range of motion in your wrists.TODAY Illustration / Stephanie Mansour

When was the last time you stretched your wrists? If you can't remember, you’re not alone.

The wrists are an oft forgotten part of the body that actually take quite a beating on a daily basis. I find a lot of my clients ignoring them altogether — until pain begins to creep up that can’t be ignored.

Whether it be from typing on a computer all day or performing moves like planks or pushups, our wrists are put under a lot of pressure on a daily basis. That’s why it’s so important to put aside time to stretch them and relieve some of the tension that builds up in the area.

What does the wrist stretch do for the body?

The wrist stretch on your hands and knees can help improve the range of motion in your wrists. The move also stretches the forearms, another area of the body that’s often ignored.

Wrist pain is common, and carpal tunnel syndrome affects millions of Americans. Some pain can even be a sign of tendonitis. If you’re experiencing extreme pain, it's a good idea to visit a doctor. However, if your wrists just feel tight after a long day at the computer, incorporating this stretch into your routine can help relieve some of the pain.

The common mistakes people make when doing the wrist stretch

Performing the wrist stretch on your hands and knees allows you to put targeted pressure on your forearms and wrists, stretching those muscles. A lot of my clients are unsure of how far to lean forward when stretching, either going too far or not far enough.

It’s important to know where to place the palms of your hands when performing this stretch. It’s common to get this placement wrong, and it’s important to get right so that you don’t strain any muscles.

  • Place your palms flat on the ground, with your wrists directly under your shoulders.
  • Turn your palms completely around so that your fingertips are facing directly at your knees (and not pointing out to the side).
  • Gently rock your body forward and backward until you feel the stretch. Then, lean into it only as far as you feel comfortable.
  • Make sure you feel the stretch in your wrists and your forearms (but never pain!) before settling on the position of your upper body.

How to do a modified wrist stretch

Stretching both wrists at once can be a little intimidating, especially if your wrists are really tight or you aren’t quite comfortable with the positioning. When my clients aren’t feeling totally confident with this stretch, I recommend stretching one wrist at a time.

Start in the same tabletop position as the full exercise. But instead of flipping both hands so that the fingertips point toward your knees, keep one hand facing forward. Lean forward or backward until you feel the stretch in the wrist of the one backward-facing hand. Hold here and then switch sides.

How to perform the wrist stretch correctly

The traditional wrist stretch performed on your hands and knees is a perfect move to improve range of motion and increase flexibility in the wrists. If you’re ready to give it a try, follow these simple steps:

  1. Come into a tabletop position with your knees underneath your hips. Place your palms on the ground underneath your shoulders.
  2. Turn your hands so that your fingertips are facing your knees.
  3. Gently rock your upper body forward and backward, finding the position you feel the best stretch in.
  4. Lean into that position, holding it for at least 10 seconds. Feel free to adjust as you stretch.

4 exercises that will help you perform the wrist stretch better

Improving flexibility in any region takes time and effort. If the wrist stretch on your hands and knees feels too intense, these moves will help you slowly improve flexibility in your wrists and forearms.

Upside down hand

Hold one arm straight out in front of you with your palm toward the front of the room. Rotate your hand downward, so that your fingers are pointing toward the ground. Use your other hand to gently pull your fingertips back. Hold for a few seconds before switching hands.

Front wrist stretch

This stretch is similar to the upside down hand, but instead of stretching the back of the wrist, you’ll be stretching the front of the wrist. Straighten your arm out in front of you and put your hand up like you’re giving a high five. Using your other hand, pull the fingers down toward the ground so that you feel a stretch on top of your wrist. Switch sides.

Prayer stretch

Press your palms together at the center of your chest in a prayer position. Reach your elbows out to the side. Line up your hands with your nose and slowly move your hands down the center of your body, keeping them pressed together, until you reach your belly button. Release and repeat.

Desk stretch

Using a stool, desk or elevated platform, place your palms on the top of the surface. Lean forward and sway back until you feel the stretch in your forearms and wrists. Hold it there. If it’s too intense, feel free to stretch one hand at a time instead of both at once.

More ways to master the move