As you can imagine American Sign Language (ASL) requires coordination. The ability to do two different hand shapes and two different motions at the same time. Not to mention adding body movement, eye gaze, and facial expressions all at once. Fluency in the language requires fluid movements of the wrists and elbows. One thing that gives a new learner away, is the lack of movement in their joints while signing. Often, new learners will put their elbows out which can make the sign even more difficult to do.
Did you know that if a sign hurts it means you are doing it wrong? ASL is not supposed to hurt when done right. Sometimes all that is needed is a tucking of the elbow or a rotation of the wrist. Although straining can occur when you are signing for many hours there is much you can do to minimize the strain starting with making sure you are signing the signs correctly and doing some stretches of the hands. Another way is finding more ways to say more with your face and less with your hands, using less signs to communicate the same meaning. With ASL being a visual language, you can incorporate so much meaning into the face and placement of your hands without losing content, tone, or intent.
For some ideas on stretches to save your hands check out this video on YouTube:
If you know you will be signing for a long period, perhaps interpreting, make sure you stretch beforehand. If you are sitting, maintain good posture. Keep your hands soft and avoid hash movements. If you are doing a lot of fingerspelling, keep your wrist at a slight angle instead of straight ahead of you. Avoid signing too far out of your personal space. Keeping your elbows close to your body can also prevent fatigue or injury from signing.
Applying these techniques can keep you signing!