Due to recent events, the first advice I want to give (and that I said multiple times on other posts here) is: take some time for stretches and take pauses often! This doesn’t apply only for artists, but writers, gamers and if you tend to work at your desk for long hours.
Every hour or so, take 10 to 15 minutes to get up, walk around your house or office for a bit, drink a glass of water and go back. Being seated at your desk for long hours can not only cause you some very uncomfortable Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but mess up your back, arms and hands muscles (pointing at myself here!).
These are very common problems, but, like I said, there are ways to avoid it. Everything that we’ll talk about here, every tip and advice, hand stretches and exercises, can also help Gamers, Writers, and every Desk Worker.
Here’s a quick video where I demonstrate a few of these exercises.
This won’t take you long, so for this one, grab yourself to your seat and let’s start!
Carpal Tunnel And You, An Horror Story
If you were hit with the bug of “Artistic Talent”, I’m sure you’ve heard about a very problematic condition.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a very serious, and quite common, medical condition that you want to avoid at all costs!
This can cause serious damage to you.
The reason why it’s so serious is that, with enough strain and neglect, it can even stop you from working as an artist or gamer for a big part of your life.
If you go to a point where you need surgery, it might still not go fully back to normal and have very fragile wrists and hands forever.
As someone who has very weak hands and wrists overall, I can vouch for it.
I have to always be very careful with the amount of exercise I make when working out.
Or, while gaming, try to use the controller as much as possible or try to avoid games that are too straining.
Even cleaning the house can be problematic!
If you suffer from wrist or hand pains, because you tend to spend long hours using them, try as much as possible to pinpoint the activities that might cause you trouble and try to take it slow with them.
Once again, by taking as many pauses as possible or doing things little by little.
Of course, this is not always possible, so let’s discuss how you can prevent the pain or help relieve it!
Preventing Hand and Wrist Pain
The best way to prevent hand and wrist pain is to actually do some exercises before you draw, paint or do something with your hands.
This also counts for people like writers, teachers and general people that use their hands and wrists a lot in the same motions over and over again.
Another thing to consider is to always keep a neutral posture while working (more on this later), feeling stressed or in a bad position can cause real injuries to your body.
Yes, I’m looking at myself and all of my fellow artists that sit down, start to get comfortable in the correct position to go into the weirdest and most complicated positions you can manage, only 2 seconds later!
What do you mean it’s been 2 hours and my neck is now one with my shoulders??
So always remember to sit up straight, in a relaxed position an with plenty of space to move around.
Drinking Water Helps
Drinking plenty of water can also help immensely!
Oh, the 1001 benefits of drinking water.
Might sound weird, but water helps run this body of ours and can be very helpful! It will not only keep you awake and give you some more energy to keep on working, but drinking water can help prevent hand cramps.
That hurts a lot, so try to have water near you at all times and try to remember to sip on it frequently.
I’m very lazy with water, so every day I brew enough tea for the whole day and have it on my desk.
Sometimes I feel like my desk also needs to drink and, let me tell you, desks don’t need water!
Keep your cup of tea somewhere where you won’t slap it by accident.
Another good reason to drink water frequently is that it also gives you the chance to move around a bit and relax your arms, hands, and wrists, even if it’s just for a few seconds!
Now, before I “drown you” (haha…) with all this water talk, let’s go through some stretches exercises that you can do before starting to work.
Hand Stretches for Artists
Here are a few awesome hand stretches that you should do if you’re an artist or just use your hands very often and in repetitive motions when working.
You should repeat each exercise at least 4 times, but take your own pace, if you feel it’s too much, slow down!
- The Praying Position: either standing up or seated, place your hands together, as the name suggests, in a praying position. Your elbows should touch each other and your hands should be at the level of your face.
With your palms pressed together, spread your elbows apart, slowly. While doing this, lower your hands to your waist or until you feel the stretch.
Hold it for 10 to 30 seconds and go back to the initial position. Now repeat it a few times!
- The CLAW! This one is also fairly easy and it helps the motion of your fingers.
Hold out your hand, in front of you, palm turned towards you. Now, bend your fingers, until they touch the base of each finger joint. In this position, you hand should resemble a claw.
Hold in this position for about 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat at least 4 times on each hand and you’re good to go!
- The Magic Finger Lift: Very simple and quick to do and can help reduce the strain on your fingers as well.
Place your hand flat on your desk, palm down. Now, gently lift one finger at a time and then lower it. If you prefer, you can also lift all fingers at the same time and then lower then, it works all the same.
This exercise you can go for a few more repetitions, 8 times is a good number to go for!
- The “Everything is A-OK!”: Just like my favorite emoji! This exercise is especially good if your thumbs are giving you trouble.
So, hold out your hand in front of you, straight wrist. Slowly and gently touch your thumb to each of your other fingertips, making an “O” shape with each of them.
Once again, try to hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Extended Arm holding the Palm: two versions to this one: Palm Up and Palm Down. This is probably my favorite exercise to do and if you don’t have time to go through a lot of exercises, this one is a must!
Palm Up: Extend your arm, with your palm facing the floor. With your free hand, pull your fingers, very gently, towards you, so your hand is bending back. Hold for about 15 seconds and then do the same with the left hand.
Palm Down: Very similar. Extend your arm, but this time your palm should be facing the ceiling. With your free hand, pull your fingers towards you. Hold for about 15 seconds and repeat the exercise with the other hand.
As always, you should try and repeat this stretch at least 4 times.
- Squeezing a Ball: Pretty self-explanatory. Hold a soft ball and squeeze it. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Repeat a few times each hand.
You shouldn’t do this exercise regularly, 3 days a week is more than enough! Be also very careful if you suffer from thumb joint pains. If that’s the case, you should avoid this exercise.
- Make a Fist and Release: Sit down and place your hands, palms faced up, on top of thighs. Now, slowly, close your hands into fists. Hold for 10 seconds and open your hands again.
Repeat a few times!
- Interlace Your Fingers: Very simple to do! Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms out, palms facing away from you.
Now reach them upwards, to the ceiling. Hold for about 10 to 15 seconds and release. Repeat a few times!
This one is especially good for both your hands and arms and it’s also very good to improve your circulation.
- The Eagle (Not quite the Yoga Pose): This is the most complicated exercise in the least, but still easily doable.
Cross your right arm over your left arm, starting at the elbows. Continue crossing your arms until your hands are touching.
Now bend your elbows and lift your arms up, towards the ceiling. Don’t worry if you can’t reach all the way. Just stretch as much as you can, without feeling pain.
Try to hold for about 20 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Remember, these stretches shouldn’t cause you any pain, if they do, either hold them for less time or, if the pain persists, stop the stretches that are giving you pain.
The stretches should make you feel better and not the opposite!
Wrist Stretches to Relieve Pain
If you’re already feeling your Wrist sore, stop!
Let it rest for a while and then do some of these following exercises. If needed, stop drawing for the day.
Is the pain persisting? Go to a Doctor!
Don’t risk it, just go and deal with that instead of getting worse repercussions later on.
- Pull Back Your Hand: Similar to the stretches above. This time, a variant, you can place your arm on your desk, stretched and palm faced down.
Now with your free hand, pull, very gently, your fingers back. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and then repeat with the other hand.
- Do The Praying Position (same as before, but be extra gentle!): The same exercise that I mentioned before is very good to relieve the pain. Since you’re already strained, try to do it very slowly and gently and feel the pain dissipating while you’re stretching!
- Flex Your Wrist Up and Down: Place your arm on a table or desk. Palm faced down and you hand should be hanging out, at the edge of the desk. You can roll a towel and place it under your wrist.
Now, gently move your hand up and down. You can also do this exercise with your palm facing up and do the same movement!
This isn’t a stretch, but if you’re soring up, take a big break and get some ice.
It really can help you get better quickly.
Put it on your wrists and relax while watching a movie on the couch or another hobby that doesn’t really use your hands too much.
Carpal Tunnel Glove To The Rescue
One of the best “tools” that I’ve bought as an artist is a carpal tunnel glove or a wrist support band.
It really helps me when I start working too hard and my wrist starts to hurt and getting all sore.
The only downside to this is that I do need to stop my work for some time.
There are some bands merely for the wrist, but I recommend going for the glove that also involves your thumb.
That will give you more support and pain relief.
The glove (check it out on Amazon) makes it so you can’t really move your hand freely. But it relieves the pain perfectly!
Alternatively, there’s also the wrist tape.
This tape is made, so you can take as much as you want and shape it around your wrists. It will relieve the pain, but also let you continue your work.
Although I never tried it nor found it in my country, it is said to be truly a savior for artists!
Here’s the Wrist Tape (on Amazon) in case that seems like a more appropriate solution for you
Hand Strengthening Exercises
Keeping your hand and wrist strong really helps in preventing damage in the future. Here are some exercises that you can do:
- Use a Hand Grip Strengthener, like this one ( Yifi-Tek Hand Strengthener on Amazon ) I know this is a pretty easy to find exercise, but it does really work!
Simply adjust to your current level of strength and keep squeezing.
Do repetitions of 10 or 20 at a time and go up depending on your comfort level. I like these specific ones since you can adjust to your strength, also it brings 2 of them in 1 package, so you can exercise both your hands at the same time.
If your hands are already quite weak, this isn’t the right exercise for you though or you should do fewer repetitions.
Remember, it’s never supposed to hurt when doing this exercises!
- Extend Your Hands: extend your arm and hands as much as you can in a straight line (up for maximum effect) hold it out for as long as you can with your fingers extended as well, then take a break and repeat. This will strengthen all of your muscles being used, including your whole hand!
This is also a nice exercise when taking a small break from working. Simply get up from your desk, walk a bit around and stretch your arms and hands.
- Stretch at your Desk: while standing, put your back against your desk and then reach out with your arms so that your hands are resting on it behind your back. Now slowly put your palms on the table and stretch your arms! If it feels too easy, try moving your body away from the table while your palms are still touching it.
Don’t overdo it though! The whole point of this is to prevent damage, not cause it!
Hand Exercise Equipment
There is a LOT of exercise equipment for your hands and wrists, so I’ll just cover the ones that I personally feel are the best to use.
- The Hand Grip Strengthener: I’m not going to talk a lot about it again here since I’ve already talked about it previously. But, as you can see, it’s perfect for hand work out and to strengthen your grip.
Its resistance is adjustable, so you can use it comfortably without straining your hands!
- The Friendly Swede Stress Relief Ball: This is a small ball that tones out your fingers, your hands and writs!
You can do simple exercises like pinching them, squeezing them or even finger squeezing (yes, this is a thing! And it helps, check out the page on Amazon).
They come with 3 different “strength packages” a soft, a medium, and a firm. So you can use whichever feels better to you. It also helps you relax and focus at the same time.
This one is also perfect for the Squeezing Ball exercise mentioned before!
- Finger Stretcher Band: This can also work with regular rubber bands, but I would highly recommend you to get one of these instead since it fits perfectly in your hand and fingers.
It even has those little holes for each individual finger! It comes with 3 different levels, each one based on your current strength. It’s also one of those highly portable products, so you can just pack it with you and use it whenever.
(The Hand Grip Strengthener on Amazon)
Good Posture For Artists
I’ve talked quickly about this before, but a good posture when sitting is essential! So always keep this in mind when drawing:
- Keep your back straight. I know this one might sound very hard to pull off, but it’s possible! The first times, you’ll be always very conscious about it, but soon your back will stay straight without thought.
- Allow space in your work environment, so you can move freely. Try not to clutter your workspace too much, just the essentials!
- Don’t use your non-drawing arm to rest your head. I’ll be honest, I do this constantly and always regret it, the amount of weight and strain we’re putting on our wrists is gigantic. It’s also not good for your shoulder and neck, usually, it leaves them very stiff.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground. This is good advice both for your back and legs. Crossing your legs, or putting them underneath you, even though comfortable for a while, tires, and damages your circulation. Try to avoid it as much as possible!
- Relax your shoulders. Did you just remember about your shoulders and how much stiff they are right now? Yeah, me too! We tend to forget about our shoulders constantly and when we finally notice, the whole upper back, shoulders, and neck are stiff and will stay like this for the rest of the day. Let’s work together to avoid this!
Oh boy, I really am nagging you about taking breaks aren’t I? Well, you’re gonna hear it again!
Really, this is the most important exercise.
Even if you have a deadline, you shouldn’t work for long hours straight. Every hour, stop for a bit. It doesn’t need to be for long, 10 minutes should be more than enough.
Get up, walk around a bit. Drink some water, grab a snack, look outside the window and, if you’re at home, pet your dog, cat, hamster, bird… fish!
A little break will not only help your position and physical strain but also refresh you and fill you with new energy to continue your work.
If you tend to forget and completely lose the notion of time and place, put up an alarm on your phone. Every hour, the phone will beep and you know it’s time to stop for a bit!
Setting Your Workspace
As always, having the right tools and an organized workplace can help.
Try to have everything as near as possible to you, so you don’t have to stretch constantly to grab a new pencil or an eraser.
As for the tools, I’ve mentioned this before in other posts, but sometimes, using certain tools can end up being painful.
Pencils and pens that are too thin, tend to strain and cramp my hands a lot, so I try to use something thicker.
Knowing how to use your tools is also important.
And by this I mean mostly, getting comfortable with your tools and relaxing. When you’re new at drawing or when drawing a new subject, we tend to become very tense.
Then, we grab our pencils with too much strength and our lines are also very hard and tense.
This will not only make your drawings less fluid and natural but will also strain your hands and wrists.
Try to relax, you’re having fun with drawing, not the opposite!
Summing It Up
Very simply put: every time, before starting your work, do some warm-up exercises like the ones we talked about.
Taking 5 minutes before drawing is more than enough and will make wonders to your own health!
Then, pay attention to your position so you don’t strain and tire your whole body.
Breaks, lots of breaks!
Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, it will help immensely!
Following these 3 simple steps will keep hand and wrist pain away, so try to follow them at all times.
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