Relieve Your Arm, Hand and Wrist Pain Using Somatic Movement

In my last post I shared an email from a client who had severe arm, hand, and wrist pain. Rather than stretching those muscles or attempting to relax them through trigger point therapy or passive release, check out the video below and find out how they can work for you.

Tight, frozen muscles learn to stay tight through repetitive actions that involve the muscles of the forearms, hands and fingers. This creates an involuntary pattern of contraction. The most effective, long-term solution is through pandiculation of the muscles: contracting them first, followed by a slow lengthening, and a complete relaxation. This reeducates the muscles to release.

It’s also important to address the muscles of the center of the body that contribute to tight forearms. Remember that the body works as a whole cooperative system, not as a separate series of interchangeable parts. Pay attention to the way in which you sit when you’re at the computer or driving. Slumping to one side, or tightening one shoulder is a pattern that can contribute to arm, hand, and wrist pain. Relax the big muscles in the center of the body, and the periphery (the arms, hands, legs and feet) will more easily relax.

25 thoughts on “Relieve Your Arm, Hand and Wrist Pain Using Somatic Movement

  1. That reminds me a lot of classic “Muscle Energy Technique”. It’s a very nice explanation of what looks to be a very effective learning exercise. Many thanks for sharing – I’m going to be pointing this video out to my friends and family (and wife)!

  2. Hi James,
    Pandiculation and MET do seem similar. Allow me to explain the similarity, and then the difference:
    in MET, being that you begin with a contraction (making the muscle slightly tighter than it already is). The contraction is met and matched by the practitioner. After a few seconds of holding the contraction, you RELAX the muscle. With pandiculation, after the initial engagement of the muscle through contraction, the client slowly LENGTHENS the muscle (different from simply relaxing it) to a new resting length. This slow lengthening brings up any sensory motor amnesia in the muscle (jerky, shaky movement, or the inability to lengthen at a steady pace, for instance) to it can be cleared through re-contracting and lengthening a few more times. This allows the client to address the entire range of motion until s/he can contract, lengthen and release/relax the muscle with full cortical control.
    The other difference – and this is huge, because I know of no other method out there that targets chronic muscle pain this way – is this:
    the entire PATTERN of muscular dysfunction is addressed. In Hanna Somatics, in addressing chronic low back pain, we would “pick apart” and individually pandiculate (and thereby recalibrate) the muscles of the shoulder, then the extensors, then one side of the hips – THEN we would “put it all together” and pandiculate the entire pattern by doing the “back lift” Somatic Exercise (it’s on my DVD).
    This is why in my arm, hand, wrist video, I emphasized that while the technique shown is really useful, you’ve GOT to go back to the center of the body and address the pattern of contraction that’s contributing to the muscle pain (even if it really is just the way in which you “mouse” on the computer; the rest of the body always compensates in some way).
    I hope this helps gives you more information about Hanna Somatic Education. It really is a fascinating in its simplicity.

    Thanks for commenting!

    • Lisa, you’re so welcome! Thanks for the feedback about the fact that I shot that video (actually, my son shot it!) in my kitchen. I tend to stand and work at the kitchen counter, with my laptop on the counter. Thus the environment – natural.
      If you haven’t yet tried learning all the other Somatic Exercises, check out my instructional DVD (on my website). I’m coming out with a “Pain-Free Neck and Shoulders” DVD soon. The more you learn, the more you take back control of your own body and learn what to do if you get all clenched up again.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Martha, I’ll have a look at that. This is so important, just the other day my husband told me about this guy who can’t move anymore and all he did was to sit by his computer without breaks. It completely wrecked his back!

    • Hi Lisa,

      You have no idea how important it is to maintain control over your own body until you lose it. Equally as important is learning what doctors don’t know – or rather, don’t practice: that all kinds of stress creates a MUSCULAR adaptation in the body, and it shows itself through our movement (or lack thereof). Learning these concepts is the key to physical freedom. That guy who can’t move because of his computer? He can STILL learn to teach his muscles to relax. It’s his brain that taught his muscles to stay that tight….and it can be un-learned…just like perfecting your golf stroke or learning a new dance step. It’s all regulated by the same area of our bodies: the brain, and central nervous system.

      I look forward to helping you in any way I can!

      Be well, Martha

  4. Hi Martha,
    My husband sent me your link on hand/wrist because I have ongoing issues even after having surgery on both wrists. If I’d known I could have worked through this issue without surgery I NEVER would have chosen to go under the knife! It’s been 22 years since my second surgery and the 1st was several years prior to that. I now understand that it’s a body mechanics issue and that surgery addresses only the symptom and only for a certain length of time. I did the exercises you demonstrated and got instant relief! I practice yoga and Pilates and have had good results but I see AMAZING results with Somatics. My husband began Somatics with a local practitioner 16 days ago because of debilitating sciatica pain. He was pain free after just one session! A certain level of pain has persisted so he is working with the practitioner through a series of exercises that has decreased his pain level continuously and for longer periods of time. This is after trying every modality under the sun with little to no relief. We will continue yoga and Pilates but SOMATICS is our life long way to mind/body health! We look forward to reading, watching and learning from you. Thank you so much for the gift of your blog. It will be a true gift we can share with others.

    • Thank you so much for this feedback!! Yes, Somatics is all about body mechanics and how they stem from adaptations from stress over time. Wouldn’t it be GREAT if the medical profession knew more about Somatics so that people would go for clinical sessions before having to waste money on expensive surgery, drugs or procedures that never get to the root cause of the problem?
      Keep up the daily practice. I’m so happy you’ve found a practitioner to help you stay out of pain and take back your life! Who is your practitioner?
      Thanks for reading my blog. If you have any particular issues you’d like me to discuss from a Somatic Education perspective, please let me know. I love to get suggestions from readers so that I can help them get the information they need.
      Best to you,

      • Martha,
        It’s a long and winding road to get the Western medical community to recognize and adapt to another way of treating dis-ease but we’re ever hopeful!
        Our Certified Hanna Somatic Educator is Lyman Spencer in Novato, CA, his email is:
        We will be regular readers of your blog and look forward to interactive learning.
        All the best to you!
        Darris in Bodega Bay

  5. Pingback: How Somatics Can Help Rowers « Pain Relief Through Movement

  6. Martha,
    I found your video via Google. I fractured my wrist (distal radius) and (distal ulna) and had surgery to repair which now includes an L-shaped piece of titanium, several screws, and 5 pins. Four weeks out since surgery and have been doing Physical Therapy for 21/2 weeks. Tendons and muscles have shortened in forearm and feel like steel cables. PT recommends deep massage of muscles and stretching at wrist every hour. I’ve been doing this with short-lived results – everything returns to the tight cable.I I just tried your method and it does seem to relax the muscles. Would you recommend this technique for my situation since it’s not from overuse but under use and having been in a cast for several weeks. Thanks!

    • Hi Marilyn,

      Yes, doing somatic pandiculations is a very good idea if you’re not getting good results with PT and deep tissue massage. It sounds as if both methods are triggering the stretch reflex, which tightens the muscles back against the stretch. When you pandiculate the muscles instead, you’re not only releasing them, but “repatterning” and “retraining” them to your brain has voluntary control over them.
      You can also take the wrist/hand through its comfortable range of motion several times a day. Pay attention to the quality of the movement; make it smooth and controlled – no jerking or shaking.

      I would also be concerned about the muscles in the center of your body that responded instantly to whatever happened that caused you to break your wrist to severely. I suspect you took a fall? That’s a trauma reflex, which can leave you with tight muscles in the center of the body – usually tighter on one side. I would suggest “preventive” Somatic Exercises in order to keep those muscles relaxed and balanced. A learned – or habituated trauma reflex can lead to a variety of musculoskeletal problems down the line: altered gait, hip pain, sciatica. And don’t forget that the muscles in the center work together with the arm/wrist/hand. You want everything balanced and coordinated after your surgery.

      Let me know if I can be of further help. You can buy any of my DVDs from my website.
      All the best,

      • Thank you so much, Martha, for responding so quickly. I’m making steady progress using the pandiculation method. My muscles are beginnning to “remember” to relax now – particularly the palmar longus. I would wake up in the morning with my finger in a claw position and painful. Am also gaining some more degree in supination.
        Can’t wait until the PT does his measurements this week so I can tell him how I discovered this technique and your work (and Hanna Somatics.)
        I’ll be getting your DVD soon.
        Thanks again,

      • Hi Marilyn,

        I’m so glad you’re seeing progress. I would love to see more physical therapists learn Hanna Somatics. There are a few PTs who are certified in Hanna Somatic Education and they get amazing results with their patients. Just applying the technique of pandiculation in lieu of stretching would go a long way toward making physical therapy a more effective method for muscle pain relief and rehabilitation.

        If I may suggest – describe to your physical therapist the difference in sensation and control of the muscles when you stretch them as compared to when you pandiculate them. Let him know that they feel more painful and tighter during the stretch, but longer and more relaxed when you pandiculate. You can also refer him to my website for more information.

        Hanna Somatics is there to be used for the benefit of everyone – not to replace any one method. I’m so glad you’re already seeing results!

        Thanks for your feedback. Martha

  7. Hi Martha. I found your blog several months ago after injuring my shoulder and have incorporated your techniques from here and from your book into my daily routine with a fair amount of success. One thing I haven’t found, though is something to loosen up my biceps. The one on the right, especially is very tight and is contributing to my shoulder issues. What movement would you recommend for me?

    • I’ve also been looking for something for my bicep (left). I keep trying to apply the same technique of contract and release to it but nothing works. I’ve done and keep doing a lot of work in the trunk and still this arm won’t release.

      • Hi,

        Contracting and releasing won’t change what the muscle is doing; pandiculating it, however, will help: slowly contract, then slowly lengthen (and stop if there’s a jump, jerk or shake and re-contract) and then completely relax. Make it like a yawn.

        Rather than looking just for a padiculation for your bicep, I’m curious to know what you are doing – or what you did (accident, injury, overtraining, etc) to develop one bicep that is chronically contracted and outside your brain’s voluntary control. There is a pattern going on that you’re not aware of. I can’t advise you since I can’t see how you move, nor what you look like (and which reflex patterns you may be stuck in). I am always happy to do one to one clinical sessions or Skype sessions to help you personally, however.

        Thanks for commenting!

    • Hi Kevin,

      Yes, absolutely. Whatever you do consistently can create muscle tension. These movements can help you. I’d be concerned about your full body posture of texting as well. You probably slump to look at your phone, which will teach your head to come forward and your center to tighten. Put your phone up to your face and use Siri! That’s what I do. You may look silly, but who cares. Your whole body will feel better.


  8. Hey there,

    I am a longtime wrist problematic man, i play the guitar a few hours a day and it has turned into a repetitive stress injury. This exercise is helping a lot but i want to dive deeper and do the other exercises that you mention in the video to further my relief. Do you have any videos of those?

    Much appreciated,

  9. Hey Martha,
    I love these exercises, they have been helping a lot with my arm pain. I am a guitarist with Repetitive Stress problems from fingerpicking. In the video you mention some other exercises to help relieve the shoulder and hips, would you be able to help me figure out a regiment to alleviate the tension in my wrists. Maybe just links to other exercises, anything helps.


    • Hi Deyo,
      I’m so glad you’ve been getting a lot out of these self-care exercises. As my blog mentioned you need to relax the muscles at the center of the body so the movements in the video will “stick” and help you more deeply.

      I have several DVDs that have somatic exercises to release the back, hips, neck and shoulders. I would recommend purchasing the Pain Relief Through Movement DVD and the Pain-Free Legs and Hips DVD. Those two together will help you release the muscles that get tight when you play guitar. It’s great to be able to do what you do and yes, much of it is repetitive. That’s OK. You just don’t want to LIVE in the posture that you need to create in order to play guitar. This is where the Somatic Exercises can help you: they will teach you to regain your own sense of neutral so you can go into it your guitar posture, practice/play and come out of it.

      There are also plenty of YouTube videos on my Essential Somatics channel as well.

      I hope this helps.
      All the best,

  10. Hi Martha and all with pain in hands and forearms,
    Last years I tried a lot of different things to release pain in the forearms, especially after work at the computer. Very helpfull to read the experiences of others on this blog !! Therefore I would like to contribute my experience: Pandiculation as shown in video did not help me. But then I tried to move regularly ONLY MY FINGERS in the range that is possible, several times during the day. That really helps me to release tension and pain in the forearms. So it is important to try out different things. Of course it is important to do more somatic explorations for the whole body.
    Best regards, Barbara from the Netherlands

    • Hi Barbara,
      What you did in just exploring the movement of your fingers alone is a great idea. The beauty of somatic movement is that you can explore and create movements that may seem small and insignificant, but can yield enormous benefit.

      Everyone reading this should give themselves “permission to explore!” and they will find out, as you did, that your brain will be stimulated to create improvement, even in the smallest ways.

      Thanks so much!

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