Wrist, elbow and hand pain are common problems experienced by massage practitioners. A common source of this pain is the overuse or misuse of the arms and hands, which leads to the development of taut bands and trigger points in the forearm flexors and extensors. So how can we help ourselves, so we can continue to help others? If you suffer with elbow, wrist and hand fatigue, soreness or pain, self-massage and targeted stretching really help to alleviate the problem.
Work on the volar surface of your forearm first. Starting at the elbow and working toward the wrist, palpate brachioradialis throughout its length. Massage across the muscle first to identify taut bands within it. Then massage along its length to work on the bands. When you feel a tender spot within the taut band, apply direct compression for 20 to 30 seconds. Use the same technique for each of the forearm flexors, first working transversely to identify taut bands and then along the length of to find trigger points. Direct compression works to release them.
Stretch the forearm flexors after working on them. Place your arm in front of you, palm up. Grasp your fingers with your other hand. Keeping your elbow straight, pull gently on your hand and fingers, so your fingers are aiming toward the floor. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 20.
Use the same technique to work on the forearm extensors on the back of your arm. For the stretch, just reverse the starting position—extend your arm in front of you, palm down. Bend your hand and fingers toward the floor.
Even if you have not experienced pain in your hands and wrists, working on your forearm muscles in this way helps to keep them soft and supple, ultimately preventing pain and soreness from developing.
Donna Finando, L.Ac., L.M.T. is co-author with Steven Finando of Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain, The Practice of Informed Touch (Healing Arts Press, 1999, 2005). She is the author of Trigger Point Self-Care Manual (Healing Arts Press, 2005) and Acupoint and Trigger Point Therapy for Babies and Children (Healing Arts Press, 2008). Finando maintains a private practice in Long Island, New York, where she’s lived and worked for more than 30 years.