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Help! My RSI is so bad I can’t do a push-up

The question: The wrist of my mouse-hand is too weak now from too much clicking at work. I can't even do planks or push-ups any more. What can I do to make my wrist strong again?

The answer: Unfortunately wrist discomfort is fairly common. Most of us spend way too many hours in front of the computer and using our phones. (I am SO guilty of BlackBerry overuse). I suggest, in addition to strengthening your wrists at the gym, you incorporate some simple exercises into your daily routine that will strengthen and increase mobility in your wrist.

These exercises can be done at your desk. Try to do one of them once an hour:

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  • 1. Squeeze a stress ball 25 times.
  • 2. Do 10 wrist circles clockwise
  • 3. Do 10 wrist circles counterclockwise.
  • 4. Do 10 “flicks.” Pretend you have water on your fingers and you flick it off.

At home, you can do wrist flexion and extension exercises while watching TV: Grab a household object between one and three pounds, like a can of food (stronger people could use beans, while tuna is a lighter option). Place your forearm lengthwise along your sofa's arm with your hand draped off the front, palm down. Bend at the wrist so your knuckles come up towards the ceiling. Repeat ten times. Switch your hand so your palm is up. Bend at the wrist to bring your palm towards your wrist ten times.

At the gym, use dumbbells instead of weight machines. Holding dumbbells strengthens the wrists. To increase the demand on the wrists, I recommend buying a set of Fat Gripz . These are one of my favourite tools. They are inexpensive and portable. The Fat Gripz wrap around the dumbbell, increasing the diameter of what your hand has to hold. This means your wrist has to work harder to hold the dumbbell. Start with a lighter than usual weight – the Fat Gripz will make the exercise harder.

If you don't have Fat Gripz, you can try a homemade alternative I use with clients who don't own a set. As long as you are careful, you can make the dumbbells larger in diameter by wrapping a towel around the middle. However, it's a little awkward, and I don't recommend using this method for weights over 10 pounds, for safety reasons.

Also, I highly suggest getting someone to do an ergonomic assessment of your work station. Seemingly banal set-up choices could be contributing to your wrist irritation. For example, if your chair is too low your wrists will be forced to sit at an awkward angle when you type and move the mouse.

Trainer's Tip: To make planks and push-ups easier on your wrists, place two dumbbells on the floor on either side of you, parallel to your position. Place your hands on the dumbbell, knuckles facing the floor. The dumbbells will allow your wrists to maintain a more neutral position.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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