10 Quick Exercises to Avoid Repetitive Strain

By Brandon Twyford
[Tips for Today]

Repetitive strain injuries are caused by the overuse of specific body parts to perform a specific task, such as using thumbs or fingers to palpate muscle tissue. Bodyworkers and massage therapists are especially at risk for these types of injuries due to the precise nature of their work, which places a significant amount of stress on the small bones, ligaments, and muscles of the hand and wrist. Here are 10 simple exercises you can perform between sessions to counteract the negative effects of repetitive motion.

1. Body Stretch
This is a great way to give your entire body a nice lengthening stretch. Interlace your fingers, put your hands above your head, and with palms facing toward the ceiling, reach up toward the sky. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 5 seconds. Release, shake your arms out, and repeat 3 times.

2. Side Bends
With hands hanging loose at your sides, slowly bend to your right at the waist, keeping your back straight. Breathe into the stretch, feeling it in your left side. Slowly return to the starting position, and then bend to your left. Repeat the sequence 2–3 times.

3. Upper Body Twist
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, place your hands on your hips and twist your upper body to one side. Slowly return to the starting position, then repeat on the opposite side. Repeat the sequence 3–5 times on each side.

4. Shoulder Shrugs
Perform shoulder shrugs to relieve tightness or tension in the shoulder and neck area. Stand with your arms hanging relaxed at your sides. Raise the tops of your shoulders toward your ears until you feel tension. Hold this position for 3–5 seconds. Relax, and bring your shoulders back to their normal position. Repeat 2–3 times.

5. Finger Stretch
With both hands outstretched, spread your fingers wide. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat 3–5 times.

6. Thumb Stretch
Extend one hand. Gently pull back on your thumb with the opposite hand just until you feel tension, and hold for 3 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3–5 times on each hand.

7. Wrist Stretch
Using your opposite hand, gently pull back the fingers on one hand to stretch the muscles and ligaments in the wrist. Hold for 3 seconds. Switch hands and repeat. Repeat the sequence 3–5 times.

8. Forward Bend
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Bend forward at the waist as if you are going to touch your toes, slowly lowering your head until you are looking backward between your thighs. Relax your arms and allow your body weight to stretch your shoulders and back. Wrap your arms around your calves if you require a deeper stretch. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 3–5 times.

9. Heart Opener
Use this stretch to counteract the effects of leaning over a massage table or sitting in front of a computer. Interlace your fingers behind your back and slowly raise your hands until you feel tension in your back and shoulders. Hold for 5 seconds, breathing deeply and feeling your chest expand. Release your hands and return to the starting position. Shake your arms out gently and repeat 3–5 times.

10. Shake It Out
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and drop your arms to your sides. Gently shake out your arms and hands for several seconds, taking long, deep breaths. Repeat 3 times.

Brandon Twyford is assistant editor at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. Contact him at brandon@abmp.com.