Hit the Ball! Hand and Wrist Care
Spring is here, and we can finally get outside to play our favorite sports such as golf and tennis; but as we get ready to hit the ball, it is important that we give some thought to hand and wrist care. There is a lot of impact into all the joints of the hands, wrist, elbow, and shoulder every time we make contact with the ball. We increase this impact by how tightly we hold the racquet or club. If you have played a sport for many years that requires gripping something that hits a ball, notice the joints in your fingers, wrist and elbow and see how much you can lengthen or stretch them out. If you have not been doing some maintenance or self-care, I would suppose you feel tightness and restriction in each of these joints. This tightness and restriction can eventually lead to injury which, sadly, can stop you from doing the sport that you love. Here are a few things to think about in caring for these joints that keep you hitting the ball.
- Notice how tightly you grip the racquet or club. Relaxed joints can move with impact whereas tightly gripped joints block the energy that should move from the hands all the way through the wrist, elbow, shoulder, and up into the torso of the body. The more you hit the ball with tension in the hand and arm, the more likely you are to injure yourself.
- If you are doing any movement repetitively, especially under impact, you will need to work those joints in an opposing direction to release that impact. So enjoy the sport you love, but take some time after playing to release any tension that may have built up in your hands, wrist, elbow and shoulder. This will help you continue to enjoy doing what you love rather than having to quit due to discomfort, pain, or injury. So if your sport requires you to swing a racquet or club from back to front, spend some time opening up the system front to back, such as stretching your arm back against a wall, reaching the fingertips away from the chest, opening all the joints from shoulder to elbow to wrist to hand.
- Hand care is particularly easy because it can be done anywhere and anytime. Here are a few ideas from Yamuna for anywhere, anytime hand care: “Stretch each finger daily like you would the rest of your body. Stretching each finger long and then in flexion and extension. Extend your arms by your sides and rotate your hands and wrists all the way in and out to balance out pronation and supination. This helps connect with the shoulders. Shake your hands out daily. Simply shake them 10-20 times. This keeps the energy from getting stuck in them. Let warm water run over your hands, then super cold water and clasp your hands together and give thanks to these hands for all they do for you.”
- For wrist care, move, move, move them in all directions. The wrist in particular absorbs a lot of the impact of a swing. To do this they need to be very strong and stable, but they also need to be open and flexible. Flexibility is built by movement, and the wrists are meant to move in lots of different directions. Notice where they move easily and where they do not move so easily and work towards greater flexibility and movement throughout the wrist.
- Elbows are a hinge joint that only like moving in an aligned position in one direction. If the arm above and below the elbow are not aligned, there will be wear and tear on this joint. As an athlete, you have some advantage over the majority of people today who are not using their whole arms at all as the result of hours of computer use. The elbow joint in this scenario gets weak from lack of use. Often I see hyperextended elbows as the result of a lack of strength around this important joint. So celebrate the strength of your elbow joint, but also take care of it. In athletes I often see the opposite problem created by this increased strength around the elbow. The elbow joint has taken the impact of the swing for so long that the muscles around the elbow joint are very tight and contracted causing the person to be unable to fully extend their elbow anymore. When I see this I know there are dangerous issues going all the way through the system. The energy cannot flow through the whole system because it is blocked by the restriction in the elbow. Three bones come together at the elbow—the radius, ulna, and humerus. Become familiar with these three bones and the joint that is created by them. Figure out ways to open up and create more space for these bones in the joint. Again, we do not want to hyperextend the elbow but fully extend it.
- The shoulder is the joint that connects the swing into your torso and can develop some real problems from this repetitive use. Opening the shoulder can also be done with just a few moments of care after you are through playing. Because you have been swinging the shoulder forward, take a moment to open the front of the shoulder away from the middle of the chest and up from the ribcage. As mentioned previously, stand facing the wall with your shoulder bone securely against the wall, slowly push the chest away from the shoulder by pushing on the wall with the other hand. While doing this, keep reaching the fingertips away and extending the elbow. Then lift the arm up the wall and keep lengthening the arm bone away from the ribcage by reaching through the fingertips and elbow. These two moves are even more effective if done with a Yamuna ball. Check out her Save Your Hands and Wrist video and her Save Your Shoulders video.
Also, Yamuna has recently released several short videos about hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder care on her Facebook page.
Practice some of these and see what works for you. You can enjoy doing what you love for many years by maintaining the “machine” that does it. Have you had any experience with injury from years of hitting a ball? What treatment did you try? How effective was it? Please share your experience and ideas.