• Regular stretching breaks can prevent hand and finger cramps
  • Proper typing ergonomics reduces strain on your hands and wrists
  • Speech recognition software can be an alternative
You just finished up a marathon typing session, but instead of feeling pleased with yourself, you can’t focus on anything but the intense cramping in your hands and fingers.

Sometimes, your fingers physically cramp into a claw shape, and it’s super painful to straighten them out again. When this happens, you can’t work the keyboard or grip a pen. You’d be better off doing things with your elbows.

It’s stressful too, since your hand problems are slowing you down.

Your hands can’t keep up with what your brain wants to put down. This is when you start falling behind with your workload, and you have zero ideas of how to change things.

It’s probably not the typing itself that’s to blame.

More commonly, it’s the way you type since it can put extra pressure on your hands and wrists. Over time, painful hand cramps can happen even when you’re not typing all day.

It’s not all bad news, though.

With a few tweaks to your routine, you can minimize the potential for hand cramps and make prolonged typing sessions less of an ordeal. 

Why Your Hands Cramp

Sometimes, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can play a part in hand cramps.

If you’re not drinking enough fluids at work, or your balance of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium are out of whack, it’s likely going to make typing cramps worse.

More frequently though, hand cramps are linked to overuse.

When you do a ton of typing on an average day, it can bring on involuntary muscle contractions. Your hands and wrists get tired.

The same thing can happen when you write for prolonged periods of time.

Think back to your high school days, back when you had to write long essays as part of a final exam. By the time you were done writing, all of your fingers, palm and forearm felt like one giant cramp.

Or, it’s also like when you overdo it at the gym and your exhausted muscles cry out for relief.

Your sitting posture also has an impact.

When you’re hunched over your computer, it can put a lot of strain on your muscles, including ones in your arms, wrists, and hands.

As this study from the Journal of Physical Therapy Science highlights, the faster you type, the more stress you’re putting on your hands and fingers.

Repeat this day in, day out, and it’s not hard to see why your hand cramps are a constant companion, especially if you barely ever take a break from typing. 

Stretching Breaks Can Relieve Hand Cramps

Everyone knows that it’s a good idea to stretch before exercising. You wouldn’t just go off on a long run unless you took a few minutes to stretch beforehand, right?

Well, it’s no different with typing.

Regular stretching is your secret weapon when it comes to hand cramps.

Doing hand and wrist stretches helps to strengthen your hand and wrist muscles. Typing all day can weaken the muscles, which you can counteract through specific stretches. This can help prevent hand cramps from happening.

And here’s the great thing about stretching breaks - you can do them right at your desk when hand cramps first strike.

Taking breaks every 10 minutes is super smart, even if it’s just for 20 seconds.

Your hands and wrists won’t get as much chance to cramp, especially if you do targeted stretches.

If you can, step away from your desk for 1-2 minutes to give all your joints and muscles a chance to loosen up. Plus, it gives your eyes a break from digital eye strain too.

Which Hand/Wrist Stretches Are Best?

Not every stretch is going to help. Some stretches can do more harm than good when you already have pain in your hands/wrists.

Try these stretches to build strength, improve flexibility and increase range of motion in your hands. They can help to make hand cramps less of an everyday occurrence. 

1) Finger Pulls 

“Hey, pull my finger.”

We all know what happens when you fall for that little trick. 😉

But, believe it or not, finger pulls can do wonders for tight muscles and tendons in your fingers.

Pull and hold each of your fingers one at a time for about 10 seconds. You’ll instantly feel relief.

2) Palm Stretch

Place the top half of your fingers (middle knuckle to tip) flat on the edge of your desk and then gently press downward. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and release. Repeat a few more times for more relief.

This will stretch the meaty part of your inner and outer palms. 

3) Praying Exercises 

Stand up and put the palms of your hands together as though you’re praying. Squeeze your elbows together so they’re touching.

Slowly move your elbows apart and at the same time, bring your hands down towards your waist. You should start to feel the stretch by the time you get that far, sometimes sooner. 

4) Clenched Fists 

Place your hands palm up on your thighs and slowly clench your fists. Lift your fists off your legs and bring them gently towards your body.

Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, before bringing your fists back toward your legs and opening out your fingers. Repeat this pattern a few times. 

5) Extended Arm Stretches

Extend your arm in front of you at shoulder height, with your palm facing downward. Drop your wrist slightly so your fingers also point towards the floor.

Using your other hand, take your fingers and bring them towards your body. Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds.

To reverse this stretch, turn your palm facing upward. 

6) Stress Ball Squeezes

This is an easy one but it helps to strengthen your wrist muscles.

Grab a stress ball and gently squeeze it for 5-10 seconds. Do this a few times every day to give your wrist muscles a mini-workout.

7) Push And Pull Thumb Exercises 

Clench your fist with your thumb facing upward like you’re giving a thumbs-up sign.

Create tension between your thumb and hand so your thumb doesn’t move. With your other hand, pull back on your thumb and hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds.

To reverse the stretch, push your thumb forward (instead of pulling back on it) and hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds.

If there’s one group of people that really put their fingers and hands to use extensively for work, it’s artists and animators.

Put your headphones on and follow along with this short video for a good little finger stretching session.

It’s also nice that you can hear birds chirping in the background - it’s sooo relaxing.

VIDEO: Stretch Routine for Artists and Animators
YOUTUBE: Crowne Prince
LENGTH: 7:37

What Else Can Help Hand/Wrist Cramps?

Stretches aren’t the only thing that can combat hand/wrist cramps. When you assess your work environment and typical routine, you’ll probably find a few things you can change to reduce typing cramps.

Here are a few things to consider.

1) Keep Fingernails Trimmed

Do you know how your wrists and fingers should be when you type?

Preferably, you’ll have a straight wrist, and fingers pointed down and with a slight curve. When your fingernails are long, it’s much harder to achieve a good typing action.

It can also be difficult to use your computer mouse without already cramping up fingers.

So, keep your fingernails trimmed and not too long. 

2) Check Your Mouse & Keyboard Position

Maintaining a neutral position with your hands helps avoid hand cramps but it’s super common for them to unconsciously turn inwards or outwards as you type.

Next time you start typing, take a look at the position of your hands and fingers. If it’s not neutral, adjust it. And keep checking in on it in case you start slipping back into old habits.

Not sure if your typing action is correct?

Here’s a short 2-minute video that explains what to do and how to set up your mouse and keyboard to make it easier.

VIDEO: Office Ergonomics - Mouse and Keyboard
YOUTUBE: State Compensation Insurance Fund
LENGTH: 1:46
Summary points:
  • Maintain proper seating and body position
  • Don’t tilt or prop up your keyboard, lay it flat
  • Keep your mouse and keyboard at the same level

3) Optimize Your Seating Position

How you sit at your desk can make a big difference for hand cramps.

Take a look around your office and you’ll probably see most of your co-workers hunched over their desks with poor postures.

If you’re doing the same, marathon typing sessions will likely end in a lot of strain.

Here’s how you should be sitting:

Your feet should be flat to the floor

Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle

Your head should be in line with your spine

Your knees should be over your feet (not behind them)

Your pelvis should be tilted back slightly

Your computer screen should be at eye level

Adjust your chair if you’re not able to get into the right seating position. If you’re not tall enough and you can’t adjust your seat settings, try using a footstool instead.

On a similar note, your keyboard position can be even more important.

If your wrists are pressing on the desk or you’re straining to reach your keyboard, the pressure on your wrists can lead to hand cramps.

Ideally, your keyboard should be aligned with your elbows. If this isn’t possible, it’s okay for it to be a little lower than your elbows. It’s when it’s higher than your elbows that when you’re inviting more hand and wrist strain. 

4) Ask for Ergonomic Equipment

Ergonomic equipment can be a game-changer for minimizing hand cramps. It helps maintain a neutral position that minimizes the potential for cramps and other types of pain.

Forearm supports encourage your hands and wrists into a position that is comfortable for typing. If you’re not currently achieving a proper typing action, it can make hand cramps more likely.

Adjustable keyboards can also be easier on the hands and wrists than a traditional keyboard. There’s also split keyboards, where each hand has a set of keys positioned so that your wrists aren’t bent.

Ask the IT or HR departments if ergonomic equipment is an option. Don’t forget to mention how much more productive you could be if hand cramps weren’t part of your day.

5) Use Voice-To-Text Software

What do you do when a project is due today and your hand cramps are too bad to even think about typing?

This is where speech recognition software has your back - so long as you have a reasonably quiet office and your cubicle neighbors don’t mind.

Today’s voice recognition has come a long way. A few years ago, you’d be lucky to have 70% recognition. Now, it’s much better - thanks to the same tech that brings us Siri and Google.

Specialized voice-recognition software takes your verbal flow and does the typing for you. You can watch your words hit the screen in real-time as you speak into your microphone.

Trust us, it feels like nothing short of a miracle when you’re struggling with super painful hand cramps that mean typing is a huge no-go.

To be upfront, it’s quite good but it’s not perfect. There will be some small minor weird misspellings and maybe even a laughable auto-correct snafu. Hey, it’s good to find humor in some of the small mistakes in life.

There’s also Dictate for Outlook to turn your thoughts into emails. It’s not exactly the same as many other speech recognition tools. The words don’t appear on your screen as you speak; only once you’ve come to the end of a sentence. 

6) Try Hand Massages

Massaging your hands can help relieve cramps. You can do this yourself at your desk by massaging your thumb around the palm of your hand. Put a bit of pressure into this but not to the extent that it causes more pain.

This study published in the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice journal linked regular hand massage to reduced pain. No surprises there.

Regular hand massages can help reduce the occurrence of painful hand cramps. Aim for monthly massages. And while you’re at it, add in foot massages to treat your feet too. 😉

Typing Doesn’t Have To Be Painful

That painful cramping that always strikes after a heavy typing session isn’t something you have to live with, especially if you stretch your hands and wrists regularly and reduce the pressure on them.

In fact, treat your next big Powerpoint build or monster typing session as a hand and finger workout. And like any workout, you need to stretch a bit before, during and after the session.

Do this and those annoying hand and finger cramps will be a thing of the past, you’ll breeze past marathon typing sessions and be able to get in the zone at work much faster.

Keep your hands and fingers happy and they’ll tap, click and type like the office pro you are.

Feel Better,

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