Healthy Hands and Arms Part 1: Importance of Self-Care with The Abacus®

By Angela Kneale, OTD, MA, OTR/L, NBC-HWC
This is a 3-part series written by Kneale on the Gelliflex® Abacus®

Imagine just one day (or even an hour) without use of your hands and arms!

Our underappreciated hands perform so many everyday tasks, from pouring morning coffee to brushing our teeth at night. We rely on our amazing hands and arms for countless practical activities like eating, computer use, and driving, as well as for effectively participating in sports and creating artistic masterpieces. We greatly depend on the intricate architecture of our muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, nerves, and bones. Our hands express who we are and what we do, revealing our personalities, behaviors, habits, traditions, and the stories of our lives. Unfortunately, repeated reliance on our hands for work, play, and essential daily activities often progresses toward overuse of our upper extremity muscles, connective tissues, and joints. Additionally, our hands are often out in front of our bodies – leading to habitual posture stresses and muscle imbalances.

Why is it vital for people to practice self-massage for hands and arms?

Paying attention to the care of your hands and arms positively influences your entire body.

Use of therapeutic hand massage has documented benefits – for relaxation, comfort and healing – for people of all ages and from ancient times to the present day. Consistently practicing self-massage for hands and arms helps to counteract some of the repetitive movements associated with routine daily tasks.

The muscles, fascia, and connective tissues of our hands and arms function best when they are fluid and moving freely, gliding and sliding. Self-massage with the Abacus® directs concentrated, comfortable but sufficient pressure to myofascial trigger points – common tender spots within the interconnected muscle and fascia system, often related to muscle tension, repetitive stress, posture deficits, injury or trauma – that may feel like knots or lumps. Gentle, sustained pressure applied slowly helps muscles and fascia to lengthen and relax.

What is most impressive about the Gelliflex Abacus®?

With the ease of your whole body in mind, the Gelliflex Abacus® was designed to support the movement, comfort, and function of your hands and arms. This exceptionally versatile gel-ball self-massage tool provides therapeutic techniques for your fingers, thumbs, hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, and upper arms. Self-massage is an effective way to relieve excess stress and reduce any muscle soreness. Within one beneficial tool, the Abacus® incorporates interchangeable non-latex gel-balls of differing firmness, allowing countless options for self-massage and trigger point release.

Muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, fascia, and connective tissues work in synchrony during movement and daily activities. Fascial restrictions due to repetitive stress or posture problems, as well as scar tissue following injury or surgery, can inhibit healthy movement and function. Recent fascia research shows that gentle, rather than strong, sustained pressure beneficially improves the mechanical stress transfer to targeted tissues during massage therapy. Self-massage with Abacus® gel-balls – squeezing, rolling, and gentle compression – effectively applies optimal techniques to help maintain healthy fascia, muscles, and connective tissues, as well as help promote healing after injury.

What positioning techniques are important when using the Abacus®?

The Abacus® can be positioned in a variety of ways to ensure optimal benefits and efficient use for the targeted hand, wrist, forearm, elbow and upper arm regions, as well as for the relaxed comfort and ease of your whole body. The Abacus® may be comfortably held sideways, vertically, or nestled against the body, as well as placed horizontally or leaned against a table. Choose a comfortable seated position, near a desk or table if desired, or on the floor. Keep your spine aligned, and your neck and shoulders relaxed. Many of the self-massage techniques require neutral position of your wrists to protect the joints and promote healthy movement.


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About The Author: Angela Kneale, OTD, MA, OTR/L, NBC-HWC, is an occupational therapist, health and wellness coach, Franklin Method® educator, and certified Stott Pilates® instructor. Professional experience includes industrial rehabilitation, employee wellness, and treatment of individuals with chronic pain, physical disabilities, and neurological issues. The author of eight books, Angela specializes in the integration of movement, breathing, postural alignment, and relaxation techniques for optimal health and wellbeing. Visit her website