Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the wrist and hand and with nearly 50% of all work-related injuries are linked to to it, finding carpal tunnel exercises that help avoid surgery is key.
We explained in greater detail in our earlier post about Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, what causes it and the aspects needed to treat it non surgically.
Because of the potential side effects and risks of surgery, not to mention the at times long recovery, many patients are now being advised to do a period of physical therapy first, to help avoid surgery all-together.1
In this post we cover an important aspect of con-surgical carpel tunnel treatment: Carpel Tunnel exercises.
The exercises should look to address:
- Muscle tension and nerve mobility through the side of your neck
- Forearm muscle flexibility
- Nerve and tendon mobility/gliding through the carpel tunnel
- Grip and thumb strength
If you just pick one or two of these, you risk missing an important component, potentially taking a lot longer to get better or worse yet, leading to unnecessary surgery – So go all-in and do it properly!
1. Starting at the top, we need to keep the neck mobile, where the arm nerves originate: Perform all of the below three stretches twice a day for 30 seconds, each way. Remember that stretches should be gentle.
2. Stretch out your forearm by pulling your fingers and wrist into extension, as shown and holding for 30 seconds and then in the opposite direction, into flexion for another 30 seconds. If either of these bring on wrist or hand pain and is not giving a gentle stretch in the forearm, don’t do it yet.
3. Floss your median nerve: This is a great one. It essentially mobilizes and lubricates the median nerve along it’s entire pathway (including the carpal tunnel of course). Repeat 20 times, 2 x daily.
This exercise needs to be gentle, and pain free, so only stay within the comfortable range, which may mean you aren’t straightening your arm right out initially.
4. Take your hand to the gym
Through pain inhibition, lack of use and the median nerve being affected, sufferers of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome typically lose strength in their hand and particularly their thumb. If this isn’t sorted, this can mean the injury really hangs around and afterwards, leaves you at risk of future recurrence of the injury.
An awesome little tool for this is the Eggzerciser (which you can get Amazon Here), which is an ergonomically shaped hand therapy ball to offer resistance to the muscles of your forearm and hand to build strength back up, safely.
Level 1: Start off by performing the 6 exercises shown here by doing 10 holds of about 5 seconds. I say “about” because everyone is different and you are better off just aiming to be fatigued by the end of the 10 holds of each exercise.
Level 2: When improving, you can then step it up to 3 sets of 10 squeezes (reps) for each exercise, without holds.
Do the strengthening just once daily and if needed you can step this back to every second day.
Reminder: Do not push into of through pain.
Persevere with this exercise regime and our previous advice for at least 6 weeks as it can take this long to start seeing significant results and of course if there is any worsening of symptoms, consults your local doctor of physio.