Wrist Exercises for Arthritis
Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain in the wrist. Osteoarthritis damages the smooth articular cartilage that covers the bones. Wrist pain is caused by the friction of the bare bones rubbing against each other. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that begins in the smaller joints, such as those found in the hand and wrist. Because rheumatoid arthritis is usually symmetrical, it will usually affect both wrists. Wrist exercise can't cure arthritis, but it may alleviate the symptoms while improving circulation and range of motion. Some exercises may stimulate the flow of synovial fluid, which eases joint movement.
Rest your wrist against a flat surface, and allow your hand to hang off the edge. Perform five clockwise and five counter-clockwise hand circles of the wrist. Make sure to initiate the movement from your wrist; not your fingers. Repeat on the other side.
Rest your hands in the same position used for the wrist circles. Imagine that your hands are windshield wipers, and swivel them from side to side. Perform 12 repetitions, or six to each side.
Begin with your wrists against a flat surface, with your palms facing the floor. Rotate your wrists so that your palms face the ceiling, and then rotate them back so that they face the floor. Perform 10 repetitions.
Flex and Extend
Rest one hand against a flat surface. Flex your wrist, so that your fingers point toward the ceiling. You can use the other hand to assist the stretch. Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds, and then extend your wrist so that your fingers point toward the floor. Once again, use your other hand to increase the stretch. Hold for at least 20 seconds, and then repeat the sequence on the other hand.
Place your hands together as if in a "prayer" position. Press your left hand against your right, and try to bend your right wrist back. Resist the movement with your right hand. Repeat in the opposite direction.
Tennis Ball Circles
Hold a tennis ball with one hand. Place the ball against the wall. Perform five clockwise and five counter-clockwise circles in each direction, and then switch to the other hand. You can also practice gripping the ball and then relaxing your hand to gain wrist, forearm and hand strength.
Chinese Hand Balls
Chinese hand balls are small, metal balls designed to increase manual dexterity. Hold two balls in one hand, keeping your forearm parallel to the floor. Use your fingers to move the balls around your palm. Practice this for about 1 minute.
Explore In Depth
- Arthritis: What Exercises Work?
- Innvista: Exercise and Synovial Fluid
- About Arthritis
- Bass E. Tendinopathy: why the difference between tendinitis and tendinosis matters. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2012;5(1):14-7.
- How can tenosynovitis be treated? Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). 2018.
- Chatterjee R, Vyas J. Diagnosis and management of intersection syndrome as a cause of overuse wrist pain. BMJ Case Rep. 2016;2016. doi:10.1136/bcr-2016-216988
- Wrist Sprain. What is it? Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. 2019.
- Satteson E, Tannan S. De Quervain-Tenosynovitis. StatPearls Publishing. 2019.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Treating Hand Pain and Numbness. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2019;49(5):361. doi:10.2519/jospt.2019.0502
- Hackney LA, Dodds SD. Assessment of scaphoid fracture healing. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2011;4(1):16-22. doi:10.1007/s12178-011-9072-0
- Lu H, Chen Q, Shen H. A repeated carpal tunnel syndrome due to tophaceous gout in flexor tendon: A case report. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(9):e6245. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000006245
- Jennings JD, Zielinski E, Tosti R, Ilyas AM. Septic Arthritis of the Wrist: Incidence, Risk Factors, and Predictors of Infection. Orthopedics. 2017;40(3):e526-e531. doi:10.3928/01477447-20170404-01
- Gregush R, Habusta S. Ganglion Cyst. StatPearls Publishing. 2019.
- Cutts S. Cubital tunnel syndrome. Postgrad Med J. 2007;83(975):28-31. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2006.047456
- Akhondi H, Panginikkod S. Wrist Arthritis. StatPearls Publishing. 2019.
- Caridi JM, Pumberger M, Hughes AP. Cervical radiculopathy: a review. HSS J. 2011;7(3):265-72. doi:10.1007/s11420-011-9218-z
- Paavola M, Kannus P, Järvinen TA, Järvinen TL, Józsa L, Järvinen M. Treatment of tendon disorders. Is there a role for corticosteroid injection?. Foot Ankle Clin. 2002;7(3):501-13.
- Adams JE, Habbu R. Tendinopathies of the Hand and Wrist. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2015 Dec;23(12):741-50.
- Dale AM, Harris-Adamson D, Rempel D, e al. Prevalence and incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in US working populations: pooled analysis of six prospective studies. Scand J Work, Environ & Health. 2013;39(5):495-505. DOI: 10.5271/sjweh.3351.
- Goldfarb CA, Puri SK, Carlson MG. Diagnosis, Treatment, and Return to Play for Four Common Sports Injuries of the Hand and Wrist. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2016 Dec;24(12):853-862.
- Shehab R, Mirabelli MH. Evaluation and Diagnosis of Wrist Pain: A Case-Based Approach. Am Fam Physician. 2013 Apr 15;87(8):568-73.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.