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Optimizing Recovery of the Hands and Forearms Part 1

The forearms and hands have some of the most tightly compacted muscles, ligaments and tendons and are tools we constantly use in our daily lives. This means overuse injuries are common and recovery can often be difficult since we are unable to avoid using our hands.

I've been a rock climber for almost 12 years and once I started massage therapy 5 years ago the amount of usage and stress on these muscle groups dramatically increased and learning to care for them became a top priority. Making sure to avoid injury to these areas is crucial for my job and primary hobby. Lets explore some of my favorite and most effective tools and methods for promoting recovery and what you can apply to yourself.

Contrast Therapy (my personal favorite for recovery)

One of my absolute favorite methods to bring nutrients to heal and reduce inflammation to any part of the body, but especially the forearms/hands and feet is contrast therapy. Its easy and you can watch TV while doing it.

Contrast therapy is simply the alternation of hot and cold to a specific area. The heat vasodilates the blood vessels and causes blood to flow into the area. This rushes in nutrients the body needs for recovery. Then cold is applied which causes the flow back towards the heart emptying the area and also helping to reduce inflammation. This process can be repeated over and over bringing in new blood flow and emptying the waste.

When it comes to the hand/forearms and feet the best method to accomplish this by far is hot and icy/cold water. This is because the water will encompass every spot on the applied area as opposed to other methods which may miss harder to touch spots of the targeted area. This can simply be accomplished with 2 dish tubs and filling one with hot water from the bath tub and another with cold water and ice. It should be noted that you may have to refill the hot water each time as the cold water soak will cause the applied area to chill which will then start to cool down the hot water. Other methods for could include a hot towel/suana and ice/ice pack/cold pool.

Try the following contrast therapy rotation:

  • Heat 5 minutes, Cold 5 minutes (always end with cold)

  • Repeat 2-4x to depending on severity and time constraints.

Hot and Cold Tub for recovery
Contrast Therapy

One of the nicest thing about this recovery method is there is little to no risk. The only risk is to the skin or underlying structures if the water is hot enough to cause burns and the cold water is beyond freezing with prolonged exposure, all of which are easily managed by you.

Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy has a variety of benefits including: releasing muscles, breaking apart rigid soft tissue (adhesions and scar tissue), improving circulation, stimulating the lymphatic system, and more. This can be extremely helpful to make sure the muscles, ligaments and tendons are properly recovering.

When dealing with overuse injuries be sure to keep it more on the gentle side of pressure as the tissue needs to recover and heal. Performing a true deep tissue massage would only make things worse.

Below I'll have some links to demonstrate ways to work on loosening the soft tissue yourself either using your own body or tools.

Strengthening & Movement

Often we can have pain and dysfunction due to a lack of balance in the muscles. This causes the body to compensate making some muscles work harder than others to help the weak ones. Utilizing strength training of the hands and wrist is important to not only recover from injuries, but also avoid them.

Using Weights

You can use weights to isolate certain movements. This can be performed using anywhere between a 2.5-20 lb weight and going through: flexion, extension, abduction and finger flexion. Check out the video below to learn more.

Rice Bucket Method

One very common method for climbers to work on increasing strength in all movements of the hand is to surround the hand/wrist with resistance and go through different movements. The easiest way to do this is a bucket filled with rice. Check out the video below to learn more about this method.


Low Level Lasers have a lot of studies proven to help speed the recovery. This is done by providing red and infrared light to the affected area which will increase the overall effectiveness of the cells in that area. This is accomplished by giving the mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell) the resources it needs to produce ATP (energy for the cell). This maximal energy allows the cells to work more effectively and proliferate (multiply).

There are a variety of different devices on the market but Level Up Massage utilizes this treatment method as well by innervating the nerve root and working down from the neck to the forearm ensuring you recover more effectively.

Phobiomodulation Benefits
Clinical Effects of Laser Therapy

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