Really to have great grip strength and hand health, we need to not only have good flexing muscles, we also have to have good extending muscles.
Last week, we talked about carpal tunnel pain and dysfunction in grip strength and how all of that influences activity as we get older. We covered two exercises. One for what’s called the median nerve, for your thumb, index finger, and middle finger, and another exercise for your ulnar nerve that takes care of your little finger and ring finger.
Now, we looked at that last week and I talked a lot about the idea that grip strength is an important “progressor” if you will, of activity as we get older. One of the big things that we run into is that people, when they’ve been thinking about grip strength, they get tennis balls and they squeeze them or they go buy the grippers at the store, or whatever they’re doing to improve grip strength. They wind up working out what are called the flexors – the muscles that squeeze the hand together.
Really to have great grip strength and hand health, we need to not only have good flexing muscles, we also have to have good extending muscles – muscles that do the opposite of what we typically do all day with our hands. If we’re typing 12 hours a day or 8 hours a day. We’re getting lots and lots of flexor practice and not nearly as much extensor practice.
One of the great ways to alleviate wrist problems, hand problems, forearm problems, etcetera, is to focus on exercises that also take care of what I call the extensors. Now last week I talked about our focus on the nerves that feed the flexors. So this week we’re going to do an exercise that focuses on the nerves that feeds the extensors – the muscles that open our hand, bend our wrist back, and help us straighten our elbow. This is called the radial nerve glide.
If you remember last week, I said when we do this type of nerve mobilizations, we’re being very careful with the intensity. You have to clear it with your doctor and make sure he’s okay, or your healthcare provider. You want to keep your intensity below a three on a scale of 1 to 10. Those are our basic rules.
Now, let’s get into the radial nerve glide. This is one of my personal favorites. I use it before all my workouts because it also helps me with pushups and bench pressing and all those other cool things. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to take the arm and we’re going to put it down by our side.
Our very first movement is to take our thumb and put it across the palm of our hand. The thumb is going to go across. The next thing that we’re going to do is, we’re going to do what’s called flex our wrist. We’re going to flex our wrist like this. We’re going to lock our elbow out straight. We’re standing in a nice, tall posture. You may already be feeling a slight tingling sensation around the back of your upper arm or a pulling into your forearm.
Now from here, we’re going to do something important which is turn your shoulder in. I’m going to rotate in, I’m then going to take my arm out to the side slightly. It should begin to intensify quite a bit at this point. Now we have two more things to add in. We’re going to pull our shoulder blade down and tilt our head away. This is the full setup for the exercise. Let’s go that one more time. Thumb across, flex the wrist, lock the elbow, turn the arm in, raise the arm out to the side slightly, pull the shoulder blade down, tilt the head away.
Now, in this position, we’re going to do three different movements to mobilize the nerve. The first one, raise the shoulder blade, pull it down. Three repetitions of that. We’re then going to hold the shoulder blade down. We’re going to bend the elbows slightly and then re-lock it. We’re going to do that three times. Then we’re going to hold all of that “positionally.” We’re then going to extend our wrist. Pull our wrist backwards and re-flex it. We’re going to do that three times. That feels fantastic.
That is called a radial nerve mobilization. As I said, it’s very important, if you’re going to do the other two from last week because you’re trying to take care of your hands, that you add this one into the mix.
If you have any questions about how these exercises are supposed to feel, how to perform them, any concerns that come up with them, please let us know. We’ll be happy to help you out. Really, as I said, think this through and consider adding these in 30 seconds at a time, a few times a day. Make a huge difference long-term for you.
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