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Some help if you’re all fingers and thumbs

What is RSI

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) type conditions cause symptoms that are typically felt in the elbows, forearms, wrists, hands and fingers. Symptoms can include pains and aches, numbness, tingling, loss of grip strength and stiffness. From a myofascial perspective it makes sense for the therapist to start treatment at the root cause of the problem, which is the neck and shoulders from where the arm nerves originate. Fascial restrictions here can cause many of the symptoms felt further downstream in the arms and hands.

However it is always sensible to work on the arms and hands as there can be many restrictions that develop here too. Forearms in particular can become very tight and restricted due to overuse, for example computer or manual work.

The Anatomy of Forearms

A look at the anatomy of the forearms helps to explain how this can happen. If you think of your forearms as having a back (on the same side as the back of your hand) and a front (on the palm side), the muscles and fascia on each side have a specific function.

On the back the group of muscles are called the extensors because they extend or straighten your fingers and thumb. And on the front they are called the flexors because they flex or curl your fingers and thumb. It is these actions that allow all the fine movement of your hands, fingers and thumbs that allow you to type, draw, sew, pick things up etc.

The main bulk of the muscles are near the elbow on both sides, extending down into tendons which work the fingers and hands a bit like puppet strings. On both sides these small muscles are each wrapped in their own fascial sheath and are packed tightly together in a restricted space.

The fascial sheaths should allow each muscles to glide freely and independently but problems start when the muscles are overused. They quickly fatigue and this starts to irritate both the muscles and the fascia they are wrapped in. Irritated fascia changes in consistency from fluid to sticky and then stuck, creating restrictions in the tissues that prevent free movement of the muscles.

At the top of the forearms near the elbows the muscles become stuck together and can often feel like a solid lump. They all attach into common points, one on either side of the elbow for each group, and they can start to pull on these attachment points causing the pain of tennis and golfers elbow.

At the other end the tendons, which are also contained in fascial sheaths, become thickened and harden often feeling very fibrous to the touch. In the palm of the hand they can develop into nodules at the base of the fingers and thumb causing trigger finger where fingers stiffen in movement or become totally stuck.

Myofascial exercises for forearms, fingers & thumbs

Understanding the anatomy of your forearms can help greatly when you start self-help myofascial exercises. Feeling for the tension in areas and then imagining these starting to unravel and let go as you stretch and use myofascial balls to help release fascial restrictions.

Forearm exercises are simple to do and you can easily build them into your day, at your desk or when you’re sitting on your sofa for example. In our self-help video we shares some simple exercises to help release restrictions and reduce symptoms you may be feeling:

 

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