Grip and Grimace? Tips for Surviving Handshaking on the Campaign Trail
Occupational therapists offer strategies to avoid pain
BETHESDA, MD—While political candidates may differ on issues and ideals, there is one thing most have in common with just under 5 weeks left in this election season: handshake fatigue. All that handshaking with constituents at campaign rallies, county fairs, and just walking down the street can leave candidates feeling stiff in the hands, arms, neck, and back.
The American Occupational Therapy Association offers the following suggestions for preventing pain and injury associated with the repeated motions involved in a handshake:
- Keep in Shape. By staying in good overall physical conditions, shaking hands can have fewer negative consequences. Participate in exercises that emphasize back, neck, shoulders, arms, and hand muscles. Keep light weights for use when traveling. Do neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, and back stretches between speeches and at the end of the day.
- Positioning is Everything. Check your posture when shaking hands. Hold your wrist straight, shake from the arm (not the wrist), break the handshake quickly and move on. When possible, use a two-handed shake to distribute pressure evenly.
- Take Care of Important Allies. Protect your next, back, and shoulders when shaking hands by keeping your elbow at a 90-degree angle, keeping arms close to your body, and keeping arms below the level of your shoulders whenever possible.
- Declare a Recess. Take frequent breaks to exercise muscles and relax areas of the body affected by handshaking. Warm up by flexing and extending wrists and fingers while waiting to give a speech. Use a foam ball or hand gripper during down time. Perform neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, and gentle stretches to work the muscles.
- Create a Good Defense. If you are already experiencing discomfort, make a few changes in your handshaking. Initiate the handshake with a different hand put your arm around the person instead of shaking hands, and if necessary, wear a splint or brace to warn off aggressive glad-handers.
- Conduct Damage Control. Gentle stretching exercises can increase circulation and decrease tension. Intermittently apply a cloth-covered ice pack to relieve pain. If you have persistent pain, numbness, or tingling, contact your physician and see an occupational therapist.
"We cannot under-estimate the importance of our hands for their ability to simultaneously conduct our daily work and build relationships with others through a trust -promoting handshake," says Debbie Amini, EdD, OTR/L, CHT, assistant professor of occupational therapy at East Carolina University. "Perhaps one of the most important instruments for building relationships with others is the human hand. Simultaneously powerful and precise, our hands must be protected and preserved for many years of healthy function."
View the brochure with illustrated hand exercises and more tips for avoiding pain on the campaign trail.
To interview an occupational therapist on this topic, contact AOTA Media Relations Manager Katie Riley at 301-652-6611, ext. 2963, or email@example.com.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association(AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA's major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.