Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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fl oor. Both of these stretches relieve the fl exors and extensors of your forearm, which are muscles that move your wrist. "Most people stretch improperly," says Sean, the licensed massage therapist and former barista who has helped me with my carpal tunnel syndrome recovery. "You have to hold a stretch for 15 seconds or you've wasted 10." Physical therapy doctor Ellery also recommends "chest opener" stretches. Standing in a doorway, hold your arms in an L shape, elbows in line with your shoulders and forearms on the doorframe. Gently push forward as if you're about to move through the door. Hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds and repeat three times a day. Along with stretching, drink water, as obvious as that sounds. A lot of muscle tension is caused by dehydration. Consider rest, icing, and stretching all part of the carpal tunnel syndrome "defensive," and strengthening as the "offense." Part of my physical-therapy plan was not only to relieve wrist pain but to strengthen those muscles. When strengthening small wrist muscles, go light. The focus is on those small muscles—you're not trying to lift as much as you can stand. Use a 1-pound weight, or just a can of soup or a hammer. With the weight in hand, lay your forearm fl at on a table with your hand hanging off the edge. Let your hand drop with the weight and then bring it up to a neutral position (in line with your arm; it's not necessary to pull back as far as your hand can go) and hold for three seconds. Then drop your hand and do it again. Repeat 10 times. Do the same with your palm facing up, and again with your thumb facing up. I stretched, iced, and strengthened my wrists, but the help of a massage ther- apist really felt like I was reprogramming my mus- cles. Massage that specifically targets the shoulders, arms, forearms, and hands is de- signed to lengthen and stretch the parts of the body baristas engage the most in making coffee. "I don't start at the wrist—I start at the elbow," Sean says of his approach, adding that the same nerves that pass through the wrist start at the elbow. Another technique he uses is stretching out the area where the radial and ulna bones meet at the base of the palm: "It's one of the most relieving things for carpal tunnel." I was lucky in that the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries covered a certain number of massages. After those ran out I took it upon myself to set aside $20 a week from my tips and treat myself to a massage every month. This self-care practice keeps my carpal tunnel at bay and is also a decadent present to my body, which not only feels amazing but keeps me in great shape for years spent in the restaurant and café industry. 87

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