Carpal Tunnel Exercises

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve that travels through the carpal tunnel, which is the passageway located on the palm side of the wrist connecting the distal forearm and middle compartment of the deep palm plane part of the palm. The compression, which causes the pain starting in the wrist, is caused when the eight carpal bones (Triquetral, Scaphoid, Pisiform, Lunate, Capitate, Hamate, Trapezium and Trapezoid) and associated narrow nerve tunnel openings become constricted in their movement. While repetitive movements, such as typing, are a common cause, in some cases a specific cause cannot be determined. Research suggests that certain people may be genetically predisposed to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Common CTS Causes

  • Repetitive movements
  • Benign tumors such as ganglion, lipomas, and vascular malformation
  • Obesity, arthritis, hypothyroidism, trauma, and diabetes
CTS can be very painful and may include tingling and numbness in the arm and wrist. The pain may extend to the neck area and shoulder. The symptoms are often more intense at night due to different sleeping positions. Carpal tunnel exercises, including stretching exercises of the hand, wrist, and fingers may offset the numbness and pain caused by the repetitive actions that are often the cause of CTS.

Common CTS Treatments

  • Drug treatment such as corticosteroid injections Usually anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for drug treatment. Treatment with medications is not always effective and may, in some cases, hinder the natural healing process of the body. Cortisone injections can provide immediate relief, but the effects are usually short-lived. Prolonged treatment with cortisone could damage tendons and muscle tissue.
  • Night splints Night splints can help alleviate pain and aches at night, but not do generally help you get better if you have CTS. In other words, it helps with the pain, but does nothing to stop it from coming back.
  • Surgery Surgery is a final resort because there is a chance of permanent loss of function in the affected areas.

Carpal Tunnel Exercises

Some studies indicate carpal tunnel exercises may be effective in reducing early or light symptoms or serve as a preventative measure. These exercises are designed to stretch the muscles of the forearm and decrease pressure on the tendons passing through the carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel exercises may strengthen these muscles and reduce the risk of constriction. It is important to know that some carpal tunnel exercises should only be done after initial warning signs have improved. Some carpal tunnel exercises may stop or reverse CTS in the early stages. When performing a job or task that keeps your arms in the same general position incorporating preventative exercises as a part of your daily routine can help reduce the risk of CTS. Carpal tunnel exercises should be done whenever a person can put aside the right amount of time to properly perform the exercises. It is important to learn the methods before actually doing the exercises since doing them incorrectly can be either ineffective or do more harm than good. Those with light to moderate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms tend to benefit the most from carpal tunnel exercises.

Benefits Of Carpal Tunnel Exercises

  • Alleviate stress and strain on median nerve
  • Stretch carpal ligaments to decrease related pressure
  • Increase blood circulation from the carpal tunnel to lower fluid pressure
  • Serve as a preventative measure for those who perform repetitious activities

Fist Flex Exercises

Fist flex exercises transfer fingers from five positions while the wrist remains impartial (meaning not bent). In order to perform this carpal tunnel exercise:
  1. Start with fingers kept straight
  2. Make a hook-like fist and return to a straight hand position
  3. Make a straight/regular fist and then back to a straight hand position
  4. Make a full fist and then return to a straight hand position
  • Hold each position for approximately seven seconds
  • Do ten repetitions of each position
  • Repeat from 3 to 5 times a day

Median Nerve-glide Exercises

Median never-glide exercises involve moving the thumb in six different positions where the wrist remains in a neutral position. In order to perform this carpal tunnel exercise:
  1. Start by making a fist while keeping the wrist impartial (not bent)
  2. Make the fingers and thumb straight
  3. Bend the wrist back while transferring the thumb away from the palm
  4. Flip the wrist (palm up)
  5. Use one hand to (gently) pull the thumb a slightly greater distance from the palm
  • Hold each position for seven seconds
  • Do five repetitions of each position
  • Repeat from 3 to 5 times a day

Preventative Carpal Tunnel Exercises

A preventative carpal tunnel exercise is a basic carpal tunnel exercise that can be done prior to work or during breaks. It's a set of exercises that can be used as a preventative measure for those who do regular activities that put them at risk for CTS. These exercises are performed as follows:
  1. Extend both arms out straight
  2. Extend wrists and fingers back (as if telling someone to stop)
  3. Straighten wrists and then relax fingers
  4. With arms remaining extended, keep wrists straight and make a fist and squeeze tightly
  5. Keep fists clenched and then bend wrists downward
  6. Straighten both wrists and then relax fingers
  • Hold each position for five seconds
  • Do five repetitions of each position
  • Repeat from 5 to 9 times a day

Additional Carpal Tunnel Exercises

Neck And Shoulders
  1. Start by sitting in an upright position
  2. Place the left hand on top of the right shoulder
  3. Hold the right shoulder down
  4. Slowly tip head down and move towards the left
  5. Keep face pointed forward or very slightly turned left
  • Hold position for 5 seconds
  • Repeat the process using the other side
  1. Stand in a relaxed position keeping arms positioned by sides
  2. Raise shoulders slightly
  3. Squeeze shoulders back and then stretch them in a downward position
  4. Press both shoulders in a forward position
  • Hold position for five seconds
  • Repeat the process 3-5 times a day as needed
  1. Stretch forearm muscles to reduce general tension
  2. Place hands together in the front of chest
  3. Point fingers upwards (similar to a prayer position)
  4. Keep palms flat and together
  5. Raise elbows to stretch forearm muscles
  6. Shake hands gently
  • Hold position for ten seconds
  • Repeat 7-10 times a day or as needed
Fingers and Hand
  1. Bend the finger
  2. Stretch the finger out
  3. Clench fingers on right hand in a tight fist
  4. Release fingers into a relaxed position
  • Hold position for five seconds
  • Repeat the process using the other hand
  1. Bend the thumb against the palm just beneath the small ("pinky") finger
  2. Spread fingers apart while the palm is in the upward position
  3. Pull thumb gently out and then back
  • Hold position for five seconds
  • Repeat up to 10 times
  • Repeat the process for the other hand/thumb

Carpal Tunnel Exercise Tips

In general, carpal tunnel exercises combine aerobic exercises and resistance training techniques to strengthen muscles of the arms, back, and shoulders. The purpose of which is to reduce weight and improve overall health of the individual. Studies show that those who are physically fit (such as joggers, athletes, swimmers, etc.) have a lower risk of CTS. After performing repetitive actions on a regular basis, it is possible to cancel out the negative effects these movements have on the joints and nerves of the wrist by bending and flexing hands and wrists in the opposite direction.Example: Following a prolonged period of typing with the wrist and hand for a prolonged period of time, take a break, and then make a fist and hold it for a few seconds. Next, fan out the fingers and hold that position for 2-5 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times as needed. Stretch the neck and shoulder muscles on a regular basis. While standing, place the left hand on top of the right shoulder. Tip the head to the left while holding the shoulder down. Move and hold the head pointing forward while still holding the shoulder down. Hold this position for 2-5 seconds. Repeat this process with the other side. Shoulder shrugs are a simple type of carpal tunnel exercise that may prove to be beneficial. Raise shoulders upwards and squeeze shoulders back at the same time. Stretch shoulders downward and then move the shoulders forward from the downward position. Hold this position for 7-10 seconds for each rotation. Repeat these exercises 5 times in a row and a few times a day or as needed. While no carpal tunnel exercise is a cure-all, some of them will have benefits and at least reduce light symptoms or prevent CTS in the first place. It is important to consult a doctor prior to starting any regular carpal tunnel exercises and to stop any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.

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