Many programmers suffer from Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), although most pass it off as muscle pain or just something weird that happens from time to time. CTS is a repetitive stress injury that typically impacts the elbow, ring & little fingers. It can cause pain, weakness and numbness, and if left untreated could end the career of programmer due to extreme pain, surgery or even total loss of the affected hand(s).
The ulnar nerve is the primary culprit behind CTS. The ulnar nerve begins way up on the side of your neck, runs through your shoulder and around your elbow ending in your hand.
Bending your elbow stretches the ulnar nerve. Rotating your palms down, raising and lowing your fingers stretches the ulnar nerve. All this stretching leads to inflammation which turns into pain and tissue degradation.
If you think you have CTS you should really see a doctor specializing in CTS sooner than later. You can try wrapping your arm in a towel at night while you sleep for symptomatic relief.
A good routine for improving hand & arm health for programmers begins by turning your palms up and letting your hands rest in your lap or at your sides as often as you can. It fits well into those moments when you find yourself pondering and not hammering away at code.
An actual complete hands, elbow and wrists routine would be to actively bend your right thumb across your palm as far as possible. Hold for 3 to 15 seconds. Relax. Then pull thumb back into good job, thumbs up hitchhiker position. Repeat this with your other hand.
Next, actively touch your right thumb to each fingertip of your right hand. Start with index finger and proceed toward little finger. Move slowly at first, then more rapidly as motion and coordination improve. Be sure to touch each fingertip. Repeat this about 3 times and the switch to your other hand.
Then grasp your right hand and slowly your bend wrist until stretch is felt. Relax. Then stretch as far as possible in opposite direction. Be sure to keep your elbow bent. Repeat with other hand.
Follow that by extending your left arm (keeping your elbow straight) and grasping your left hand, then slowly bend your left wrist back until stretch is felt. Hold for a few seconds. Relax and the repeat with your other arm/hand.
Now, you’ll go the other way. with your left arm extended (keeping your elbow straight) grasp your left hand and slowly bend wrist forward until stretch is felt. Hold for a few seconds. Relax and repeat with your other arm/hand.
If you are at your desk when doing these you can rest your left elbow on your desk, grasp your left arm at the wrist and gently bend elbow as far as possible towards your shoulder. Hold for 3 to 15 seconds. Then straighten arm as far as possible. Hold for 3 to 15 seconds. Relax and repeat with other elbow/arm.
These next two work sitting, standing or even walking. Bring your right arm over head and bend elbow as far as possible. Grasp your wrist with other hand and gently stretch further. Hold for 3 to 20 seconds. Relax and repeat with your other arm.
Bend your left elbow as far as possible. With other hand, try to bend it further. Hold up to 30 seconds. Relax and repeat with your other arm.
- Hands, Elbows and Wrists – Complete Package
- Hands, Elbows and Wrists – 4 Up Exercise Illustrations
- Hands, Elbows and Wrists – 12 Up Exercise Illustrations
- Hands, Elbows and Wrists – Action Tracking Chart
(The Complete Guide is also available on GitHub)