How to Color Without Hurting Your Hands
Don’t let a coloring habit exhaust your hands. Use these tips to take good care of your digits every time you color.
By Laura Newcomer
Long coloring sessions may be wonderful for our minds, but they can start to feel like torture on our wrists and hands. If you color regularly, odds are good you’ll face hand fatigue at some point.
“Working with pens and pencils can potentially place [strain] on the hands and wrists, potentially causing long-term pain,” says Occupational Therapist Natalie Parker MOTR/L of the Alliance of Therapy Specialists.
That might sound alarming, but don’t freak out quite yet—the good news is there are plenty of ways to minimize hand, finger, and wrist strain each time you break out the coloring book. Try out these tips to help ensure your precious hands and fingers are up for the task of coloring for years to come:
Use thicker pens and pencils.
Working with thicker writing implements will help reduce strain on the wrist and hand because it minimizes the amount of force your hand needs to exert in order to grip the writing implement, says Parker. There are two ways to obtain thicker coloring utensils: You could purchase oversized pens and pencils if you’re able to find a variety that suits your needs, or you could insert your utensils into simple pencil grips to give your hand and fingers some extra support.
Employ the right grip.
Holding your pen or pencil with proper form can help reduce strain on the fingers, hand, and wrist, says Parker. Most people will benefit from utilizing a mature tripod grasp with an open webspace. That sounds very technical, but it’s actually pretty straightforward:
- Hold your writing utensil with your index finger, thumb, and middle finger
- Leave an open space between your index finger and thumb
- Allow the writing utensil to rest in the “webspace” (the stretchy bit of flesh) between your thumb and index finger
For most people, holding writing utensils in this way will allow for optimal control while reducing strain on the wrist and hand.
Mom was onto something when she told us to sit up straight at the dinner table: Our posture affects the way our entire body operates and plays an important role in using the wrists and hands in a healthy way, says Parker. Engaging your core muscles and sitting up straight enables healthier positioning throughout your arms, which can reduce strain on the wrists and hands. One of the best ways to ensure you’re sitting properly is to create an ergonomic workstation. Speaking of which…
Set up an ergonomic work station!
When you’re sitting correctly in the right environment, you’ll minimize strain on the wrist, which will help prevent and relieve fatigue in the hand and fingers, says Parker. To that end, she recommends implementing a few ergonomic principles in your coloring space:
- Make sure your work station is at the correct height. You can do this by taking your usual seat at your desk, holding your upper arms alongside your torso, and bending your elbows to a 90-degree angle. If your hands rest comfortably on the desk in this position, that’s a good indication your desk is at the proper height. If your hands have to drop below or raise above your elbows, that’s a sign you should attempt to raise or lower your work station.
- Make sure your work space is well lit. Employ lighting that’s gentle on the eyes but that thoroughly lights up your coloring space without shadows or glare.
- Make sure you have plenty of elbow room. This will allow you to stabilize your hands and wrists with your elbows and forearms.
- Make sure you’re sitting correctly in your chair. Once again, proper posture is key. Keep your feet flat on the floor, sit up straight, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and allow your arms to extend out from your bent elbows so they’re parallel to the floor while you work.
- Consider utilizing a wrist rest to further reduce strain on the wrist and hand.
Do some strength training.
In addition to creating an ergonomic work station, one of the best ways to ensure you’re employing proper posture every time you sit down to color is to strengthen your core, trunk, and upper body, including the shoulders and muscles around the shoulder blades. Strength training moves that target these areas not only help you maintain proper posture whenever you sit down to color, they can also improve your fine motor control, says Parker. Stronger abs and more refined coloring skills? It’s a win-win.
If you’ve employed these strategies and you’re still suffering from wrist or hand fatigue during or after your coloring sessions, Parker recommends employing RICE—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It may also be helpful to consult a doctor or occupational therapist who can help you determine whether your wrist or hand strain is the result of another problem (like excess pressure on the joints, hypermobile joints, or instability in the shoulders or scapula), says Parker. But for most people, these tips are all you need to help your hands enjoy coloring as much as you do.