Most people do not think of nerves as being in need of exercise – the concept seems to apply mostly to muscles – but the larger nerves are actually rubbery and stretchy, to accommodate their movement while the body is in motion. Since three major nerves are also involved in cases of tendinitis of the wrist, exercises that stretch and glide these are also advisable when you are attempting to relieve tendinitis.
The trio of nerves that can become involved in tendinitis includes the median nerve, which passes through the carpal tunnel and is the nerve which is squeezed when carpal tunnel syndrome develops; the radial nerve, which both innervates the triceps and sends a branch to supply feeling to the back of your hand; and the ulnar nerve, which is mostly concerned with the elbow but also extends to supply feeling and nerve impulses to the ring finger and the little finger.
You have two options for stretching and gliding your nerves. One of these is the “stretch and hold” method. In this case, you perform each exercise by doing whatever action is necessary to complete it, and holding the position for roughly 10 to 12 seconds before relaxing, resting for a moment, and repeating if appropriate.
The other method is the “piston” method which involves pumping the hand in and out of the exercise position steadily for the same period of time to increase the movement of the nerves and thus loosen them more, working small adhesions free and increasing internal lubrication. Both methods have something to recommend them, and the best approach is to try each and use whichever seems to work best for your individual case.
As with gliding exercises for the tendons, do your hand exercises for nerves gently and carefully to avoid injury. Stop in the event of pain, burning, tingling, strong itching, or numbness in your fingers, wrists, or hands. Try to exercise without distractions so that you will not “overdo” your exercises and injure yourself.
Specific tendinitis hand exercises for the nerves
There are many different exercises that have been developed specifically to stretch and “glide” the nerves involved in tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are some of the most frequently recommended:
Wing stretches cane help with limbering the median nerve (that which passes through the carpal tunnel). Straighten your arms with your hands held out straight, palms facing each other, then slowly swing your arms backwards horizontally until they extend back at a slight angle from your shoulders.
Bend your hand backwards, keeping it flat, until you can feel tautness is your arms, shoulders, and/or wrists. Hold or “piston” as you prefer.
After ten or a dozen repetitions, tilt your wrists half forward, and lift your arms straight up as best as you are able. You will feel tautness before your arms have risen above your shoulders – hold at this point, or lower and raise your arms slightly to vary the tautness. After around 10 seconds have passed, lower your arms to the point where the nerves and tendons are slack, then repeat the raises.
Finally, turn your head and tilt the ear towards your shoulder at the same time, alternating directions, while keeping your arms tilted back and raised enough for slight tension.
Rotation and Extension Sequence – another sequence of nerve stretching exercises (which will, of course, also provide some benefit to the tendons) starts with your arms stretched out straight in the air in front of you, with your hands relaxed at the end of them.
Begin the stretches by making a fist, without squeezing your fingers together too hard, then open the fist, pressing your thumb against the outside edge of your hand while keeping your fingers together and bending them upwards as far as they will go. This will result in your hands sticking straight out from your arms, with your fingers curved gently upward.
Tilt the hands back as far as they will go (stopping if there is pain), then flex the thumb as far out to the side as possible, and hold or pump gently.
Rotate your hand until your palm faces the ceiling, thumb still extended to the side. Press down gently on the thumb with the fingers of the other hand until you feel a noticeable increase of tension, then hold for 6 to 12 seconds. Relax and start the whole sequence again.