In my last post, I shared an email from a client who had severe arm, hand, and wrist pain. Rather than stretching those muscles (which can potentially make them tighter) or attempting to relax them through trigger point therapy or passive release, I guided my client to become aware of what she was doing with her body every day that contributed to a full body pattern of muscle tightness that contributed to her carpal tunnel syndrome.
With arm, forearm, and hand pain, the brain is actively telling the muscles of the arms and hands to stay tightly contracted. This could occur due to computer work, holding and using tools (as in construction), fine motor work (such as jewelry making), or any repetitive action of the wrist. An involuntary pattern of contraction can become habituated if the muscles aren't taught, daily, how to release and relax.
Pandiculation is key
The most effective, long-term solution is to pandiculate these muscles: contracting them first just enough to feel the muscles, then slowly releasing them into full relaxation. This reeducates the muscles to both fully contract, and then fully release - and it happens at the level of your brain and nervous system.
Step 1: Release your center
To release the muscles of your periphery, you must first address the muscles of the center of the body that contribute to tight forearms. Remember that the body works as a whole cooperative system, not as a separate series of interchangeable parts. Somatic Exercises such as Arch & Flatten, Arch & Curl, or the Back Lift will help you to release your center. Relax the large muscles in the center of the body, and the periphery (the arms, hands, legs and feet) will move more freely, relax more completely and move more efficiently.
Step 2: Be aware of your body
Pay attention to the way in which you sit when you're at the computer, drive, or use your arms and hands in your work. Slumping to one side, or tightening one shoulder is a pattern that can contribute to arm, hand, and wrist pain. When you are aware of your movement habits, you will more easily recognize what you do on a daily basis to contribute to your pain. When you can recognize these habits as they happen, you can correct yourself in real time.
Step 3: Maintain a daily routine of Somatic Exercises
Enjoy this self-care video and notice how much more relaxed and free your arms, hands, and wrist feel. A daily practice of Somatic Exercises to keep muscle tension and pain at bay is as important as brushing your teeth to prevent cavities.