Graduation season is fast approaching, and in the weeks ahead you will be shaking hands with countless students and faculty. During the 2018 graduation season, WSSU recognized more than 1,200 graduates.That adds up to a lot of handshakes!  At the end of a long day, you may find yourself with pain and stiffness in your hands, arms, neck or back and dreading that next crushing grip from an over-enthusiastic graduate. 

Occupational therapy practitioners are health, wellness and rehabilitation professionals with expertise in preventing and treating conditions such as repetitive strain injuries resulting from excessive handshaking.


The Occupational Therapy Department at WSSU would like to offer you tips and suggestions for preventing pain and injury associated with the repeated motions involved in a handshake to keep you smiling the whole season long. 

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives. It provides health, wellness and rehabilitation services that promote independent and satisfying lives. The Occupational Therapy program at WSSU is committed to preparing students to serve their communities with an emphasis on

  • Health equity

  • Community engagement

  • Evidence-based practice

Positioning is Key

The key to preventing problems is to check your posture and the placement of your hands and arms during handshaking. 

  • Initiate the handshake so you have a firm grip on the other person's hand.

  • Avoid pressure on your knuckles by positioning the "web" space between your thumb and index finger firmly against the corresponding space in the other person's hand.

  • Hold your wrist straight.

  • Shake from the arm, not the wrist.

  • Break the handshake quickly, and move on to the next.

  • When possible, use a two-handed shake. Placing your left hand over the back of the other person's hand distributes the pressure more evenly.

Take Rest Breaks

Take frequent rest breaks. Try these exercises to rest and relax the areas of your body that have been receiving the most stress.

  • With fingers interlaced behind your head, gently stretch your elbows back. Hold for 10 seconds.

  • Shrug your shoulders. Hold foe 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times. 

  • With fingers interlaced behind your back and arms straight back, gently hold for 10 seconds. 

Keep Fit to go the Distance

Shaking many hands with less strain on your body can best be achieved when you are in good physical condition. 

  • Choose exercises that include your whole body, emphasizing muscles in the back, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. 

  • Train with light weights to keep your upper body strong.

  • Do shoulder shrugs and back stretches between events and at the end of the day. 

Take Care of Important Allies

Your back and shoulders are important components of the motion of a handshake. Protect and save them from unnecessary stress and strain.

  • Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle.

  • Keep your arm close to the body.

  • Keep your arms below the level of the shoulders whenever possible.

  • Turn your entire body when moving to shake a hand. Do not turn from your waist if possible.

Strengthen Your Hand

Activities to increase hand strength are best done before graduation season begins, but these can be fit into those rare free moments in your schedule. 

  • Stretch and flex your hands while on the dais waiting to give your speech or greet the next graduate.

  • Squeeze and hold the handles of a Hand Grip Strengthener for 2 seconds and release. Work up to 3 sets of 10, twice per day.

  • Exercise the muscles that straighten your fingers. Place a Finger Stretcher Resistance Band around your fingers, then spread them apart while straightening. ~ Keep a Stress Relief Grip Ball and Grip Ring in your office and use in between meetings or on long calls.


Full fist Exercise:

Open and close hands fully, squeezing into a fist 10 times slowly (over a 10 second period); repeat every hour if possible. 




Wrist Exercise:

Place one hand beneath the fingers of the other and gently but firmly press back to stretch the wrist. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat 5 times. Do this every hour if possible.

Damage Control

Pain in your hand, wrist, arm or shoulder is a warning signal that you need rest and possibly professional treatment.

  • Rest your hand whenever and wherever you can. Use a tape recorder to dictate speeches and to make notes rather than writing. 

  • Try gentle stretching exercises to increase circulation and relieve tension. 

  • Rub an ice cube across the painful area for up to 5 minutes, or apply a cloth-covered ice pack for no more than 10 minutes


Copyright 2006 by The American Occupational Therapy Association. Adapted with permission.

  • w-facebook
  • Twitter Clean
  • White Google+ Icon
This site was designed with the
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now