Extensor Carpi Ulnaris: Learn Your Muscles

Although you may not be terribly aware of your extensor carpi ulnaris, it is one of the many muscles that help you move your wrist. Since we all use our wrists (often without even thinking about it), it’s important to know what to do to keep this muscle healthy. Read below to find out more about the extensor carpi ulnaris.


extensor carpi ulnaris

Thanks to TeachPE.com for the image.

There are two points of origin for the extensor carpi ulnaris. The first point is on the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. (You might remember that the epicondyles are the rounded nubs at the bottom of the bone, and lateral means that it’s the nub that is further away from the midline of the body.)

The second point of origin is at the middle third of the posterior ridge of the ulna. As you might suspect, the posterior ridge of the ulna is on the back of the ulna.

The insertion of the extensor carpi ulnaris is on the posterior surface of the base of the fifth metacarpal. This spot is on the back of the outside of your hand near your wrist bones.


The extensor carpi ulnaris has two main functions. First, it extends the hand at the wrist. This means that it helps bend your wrist like when you practice Plank.

Second, it causes ulnar deviation of the hand at the wrist. Ulnar deviation is when your whole hand shifts in a flat plane toward the outside of your forearm. This causes your pinkie finger to end up closer to your ulna.

Common Dysfunction

If your extensor carpi ulnaris is not quite working as it should, you might notice that you have pain or difficulty performing the muscle’s actions. Muscle dysfunction might also show up as pain or difficulty performing the opposite actions. This means that you might have trouble extending, flexing, or allowing your wrist to slide to the right and left.

Restoring or Maintaining Health

Any time you think that you have injured or torn a muscle, you need to contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor can order all of the appropriate imaging, medicine, and therapy necessary for you to heal as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

However, if you want to keep the extensor carpi ulnaris healthy, I have some suggestions. For optimal muscle health, you want to both strengthen and stretch the muscle. To strengthen this muscle, you should practice extending your wrist like when you get your hands ready for Plank. Also, let your hand rest on a flat surface and slide away from the midline of your body. Your little fingers should seem like they’re getting closer to your forearm.

To stretch, you want to perform the exact opposite actions. Allow your wrists to flex and practice sliding your hand toward the midline of your body. These strengthening and stretching exercises aren’t glamorous, but they’ll help keep your extensor carpi ulnaris healthy.

More Information

For those who are more interested in technical terminology and smaller muscles, I recommend Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards. Any time a client comes to me with pain, I use these flash cards.

Also, I found a really great website that explains and illustrates the different movements of the wrist. Check out ergovancouver.net.

Do you have any other suggestions for strengthening or stretching the extensor carpi ulnaris? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.