Simple massage techniques for the hands and wrists

There are lots of reasons people suffer from pain in the hands and wrists. Here are a few reasons that come to mind based on personal experiences and those of my friends and family:

  • Sports like rock climbing and fencing
  • Spending lots of time typing, writing, or drawing
  • Working in a field where you are constantly using your hands (like landscaping or teaching piano)
  • Arthritis

Having tight, sore hands at the end of the day can be uncomfortable, painful, and can prevent you from doing what you want to do after work. Keep reading to learn more about hand and wrist massage, how it can help, and how you can do it on your own.

Benefits of massaging the hands and wrists

A good hand massage does more than just feel good. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Relieves headaches
  • Relieves stiffness and pain
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Improves circulation
  • Improves flexibility and range of motion for fingers and wrists
  • Reduces hyperirritable nodules (trigger points)
  • Reduces scar tissue

Massage is commonly used to treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, trigger finger, and Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Massage techniques for hands and wrists

The techniques below are appropriate to use on oneself, but can also be performed by a partner, friend, or therapist.

Self Hand Massage

Before you begin, it’s important to apply lotion and to thoroughly shake out your hands and fingers. Start by alternating between flexed fingers (jazz hands) and fists. Next, bend your wrists with your hands pointing down. From this position, flex each hand up and down a few times.

Basic hand massage routine

Pinch the tips of your fingers with generous pressure (not so much that it hurts). Hold each pinch for 2-3 seconds, and don’t forget your thumb. Repeat the process a second time, this time by squeezing fingertips on the sides.

Wrap one hand around the other and place your thumb on your other palm (like the picture at left). Use short, hard strokes with your thumb to massage the pad of your hand. Begin in the center and work your way outwards. Start with gentle pressure and increase as you go.

This technique works best to massage the edge of your hand and the areas beneath the fingers and thumb.

Next, locate the bones inside the palm of your hand (they are extensions of your fingers). Pinch the base of your hand, between the bones, and massage upwards. As you reach each finger, continue the massage up the finger, focusing pressure along the sides of each finger.

Repeat massage between each bone and along each finger.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply while you massage. Pay attention to how different parts of your hand feel when pressure is applied. This technique is great for finding pressure points on the palms of your hands and for relieving tension in specific spots.

Hand massage for arthritis

For patients with arthritis in the hands, regular massage has been shown to decrease anxiety, reduce pain, and improve grip strength.

For best results, visit a specialist once per week for a hand massage, and practice self-massage at home once daily.

One of the best techniques to relieve pain associated with arthritis is called “milking,” which is actually a forearm massage:

  • With your fingers, grip the top of one forearm
  • Your thumb should be on the underside
  • With moderate pressure, massage from wrist to elbow
  • Repeat in opposite direction
  • Pull skin gently as you go

Hand massage pressure points

Pressure points come from “acupressure” – an oriental healing method in which pressure is applied to specific points on the body. These points are called “pressure points.”

The theory is that by applying pressure, you can release blocked energy and allow it to flow through your body. This practice is great for releasing tension and promoting relaxation.

In terms of reflexology, another practice related to massage, the hands contain many points associated with organs and other areas of the body (see image at left).

Applying pressure/massaging these spots is said to benefit associated areas of the body.

Outlined below are a few methods of self-massage that focus on pressure points:

1. Pressure Point “PC6” – AKA “Nei Guan”

To find PC 6, measure three fingers down from the spot where your hand and wrist meet. PC 6 is located in the middle of your wrist, where your third finger touches.

Using the thumb of your opposite hand, apply pressure (enough to feel discomfort but not pain) and gently knead in a tiny circulation motion. Continue for 2 minutes on each hand.

PC6 is commonly used to treat anxiety, nausea (including pregnancy-related nausea), motion sickness, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

2. Pressure Point “H7” – AKA “Gate of Spirit”

Look at your right palm. Place your left thumb where your hand and wrist form a crease, directly below your pinky finger). Apply generous pressure for 5 minutes on each hand.

H7 is commonly used to treat emotional issues including worry and anxiety. This pressure point has also been known to help ease insomnia.

3. Pressure point LI4 – AKA “Valley of Harmony”

LI4 is the pressure point in the hand best for treating headaches. You can find it in the “V” or “web” between your index finger and thumb. Using the thumb of the opposite hand, apply pressure to LI4 until you feel slight discomfort (but not pain). Apply consistent pressure for 2 minutes on each hand.

LI4 is commonly used to treat headaches, cold and flu, eczema, constipation, sinus problems, menstrual disorders, ulcers, and sore throat.

If you’re having trouble locating pressure points, it can be helpful to use a ballpoint pen. Pressure points are tiny – about .5mm in diameter. Use the pen (with the lid on) to press on each point.

If you aren’t feeling any sensation, press on spots in the area until you feel a bit of soreness. Remember not to push so hard that you feel pain. It’s important to be patient. You may need to repeat the techniques described above for several days in a row before you start to see results.

Click here to learn more about massage techniques for neck and shoulder discomfort.

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