Arm and hand pain: Warm-ups before stretching or exercise

Arm pain, Hand pain, Pain relief, Stretches / Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

To heal arm and hand pain, daily warm-ups are beneficial before you stretch or exercise. Aerobic activity will increase healing by increasing blood flow and oxygen. The previous post presents suggestions for stretches that are helpful for Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.

1) Half head rolls: Start with your ear at one shoulder and your face looking slightly upward. Roll forward so your head hangs down, then continue over to the other side. Go back and forth several times slowly, letting gravity do the work. Breathe mindfully. The half head roll stretches and relaxes the neck muscles. Blood will flow into the muscles bringing the nutrients and oxygen necessary to do the work of holding up your head all day. Opening up the thoracic outlet space between the scalene muscles in the front of your neck will allow the nerves to communicate back and forth between the arms and the central nervous system.

2) Elephant:
Bend over at the waist with your arms hanging limply. Swing them passively side to side or around in circles. Play with the motion to make it more interesting. Use your body to move your arms. Try being like a dancer and let the side-to-side swing bring your torso up straight with your arms out to the side, then back to the other side, letting centrifugal force swing your body up and out, then back and forth. Have fun. It feels good. If you want to take it to another level, keep that side swing going up over your head and down again in a circle, then back the other way shifting your weight from one foot to the other. This can be an aerobic activity, opening your chest and filling your lungs, inhaling as you raise your arms and exhaling deeply as you bring them down. If you’re doing it faster, exhale forcefully on the down stroke of each circle. The elephant warm-up opens the space under your collarbone where the major nerves and blood vessels pass that serve the arms and hands. Closing up that space causes the symptoms of thoracic outlet entrapment.

3) Finger flutter: Relax your arms at your sides. Move the upper arms rhythmically back and forth to passively shake the limp hands and fingers. The finger flutter allows passive relaxation of the muscles of the forearm and hand, releasing tension and allowing the flow of blood, lymph fluids and nerve signals.

Aerobic activity is important to get your body pumping blood. Try bouncing on a mini trampoline, just little bounces. This is also a fantastic method of getting your body to pump pain-causing waste products out of your muscles through the lymphatic system. Walking is good, but if walking hurts your arms, wear a loose elbow brace to keep your arm still. Biking on a recumbent bike is great exercise for you because it doesn’t use your arms. If you have an eliptical machine at your gym, try it without the arm swings. Keeping your balance will help with stabilizing your core and strengthening your legs and butt. Climbing stairs without holding the rail, just using good control in your leg and glute muscles can make you work up a sweat. Try a step aerobics routine. There are lots of videos. Mix it up, have fun and do something different each day.

This is a series on arm and hand pain from my Neuromuscular Therapy center near Boston. If you missed the beginning, go back to the “Checklist of Causes.”

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