Most of us are aware that sitting at a computer all day is super bad for your body. Our bodies weren’t meant to be hunched over a screen and typing all day—yet it’s necessary to do just that for many types of jobs. While your hips, neck, and back get the majority of the attention, it’s important to remember your hands, too. Unlike the other aforementioned areas, which can develop problems due to sitting still for long periods of time, your hands are negatively affected by doing repetitive motions such as typing. Repetitive stress injury (RSI) affects around 1.8 million workers per year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“Anyone who is doing a repetitive task using the same motion over and over can be vulnerable to overuse,” says licensed massage therapist and IAYT certified yoga therapist Beret Loncar, owner of Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage Therapy. “It is not just the using and repeating, but also the body’s continual contact with a surface that can be an issue as well.” For example, resting your wrists on a sharp table edge can cause soreness and reduced mobility in the short term. Long-term effects depend on the severity, says Loncar, and can cause numbness and tingling, inflammation, pain, and weakness. (Watch for recurrent pain or a heavy feeling in the hands, she advises.)
If you’re someone who types all day, Loncar advises scheduling regular time away from the keyboard. “Taking breaks to massage and stretch the hands can go a long way to aid in recovery and count as active rest,” says Loncar. Now that the “why” has been covered, here’s Loncar’s advice on how to massage your hands.
How to do a hand massage
First, shake out your hands and wrists to help get your blood flowing. “There is also just something therapeutic about shaking off what you were just doing,” Loncar says. “It is a good mental transition.”
Extend your arms out in front of you, with your wrists bent and your fingers pointing upward, like you’re pressing a wall. Pull your fingers back toward you for 30 seconds, then do the same with your thumbs. “Then put your hands as if the back of them were pressing a wall. Hold for 30 seconds. This will stretch your forearms and many of the muscles and tendons that feed the hands run through the forearms,” says Loncar.
Then, it’s time to massage. “Massage the bones of the hands and the webbing between them where the muscle is,” says Loncar. “To massage the webbing of the fingers, use your pointer finger and thumb to make a pinching grip. Pinch the webbing between the bones of the pinky finger and ring finger and gently massage while gripping both sides of the skin.” Do the same for spaces between your ring and middle finger, and between your middle finger and index finger. “Lastly, do the space between the index finger and the thumb. There is a big muscle belly there, so you can grip multiple places. Sometimes moving the thumb of the hand being massaged feels great as well,” she says.
Next up: massage the bones and joints. Loncar recommends using some lotion for this part. You can use scented lotion for a bit of aromatherapy, though she advises people who are in an office to use an unscented lotion, as coworkers may be sensitive to scents. “Gently grip the finger of the opposite hand just above the first joint,” Loncar says. “Pull the finger and take it into a circle, then slide to the next joint, and then repeat that until you get to the tip of the finger,” she explains. Then use your opposite hand to knead the mounds of your palm. “No special technique is needed here. Do whatever feels best,” says Loncar. “Kneading, pulling on the skin, and using your fingertips for point work all feel amazing in these tissue dense areas.” And don’t forget to let your wrist area in on the action, as she says this is a high stress point.
By taking breaks to care for your hands, you’ll cut down on strain—and you’ll have a very good “excuse” for enjoying a daily massage.
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