Fitness Articles

Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A Real Pain in Your Wrist No More

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You don’t want to complain, but lately you have felt a little tingling or numbness in your hand and wrist. Sometimes, the pain is sharp. Other times it seems to travel from your wrist up through your arm. You try to shake it off but it just won’t go away.

Is it just a cramp? A muscle spasm? More than likely, you could be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition seen annually by physicians more than two million times. It strikes three times as many women as it does men and it accounts for 10-20% of all repetitive strain injuries.

What is it?
Your median nerve, which controls sensations for the palm side of your thumb and fingers (except the pinkie) runs from your wrist to your forearm. It is encapsulated within the carpal tunnel, which is comprised of small bones. (Carpal comes from carpus, the Latin word for wrist.) Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when this nerve becomes impinged, pressed, or squeezed within this bony tunnel. This can cause various symptoms including numbness, pain, tingling or a "funny feeling" in the fingers, hand, and/or wrist. Other classic symptoms include:
  • Burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and fingers, especially the thumb, index, and middle fingers
  • Fingers that feel useless and swollen with little or no apparent swelling
  • The need to "shake out" the hand or wrist upon waking
  • Decreased grip strength
  • Inability to grasp small objects
  • Inability to distinguish between hot and cold to the touch
What causes it?
You may think that carpal tunnel syndrome occurs only in people who work at a computer all day, but carpal tunnel syndrome is typically caused by a combination of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve—not just excessive computer use. Some people have a genetic predisposition caused by an unusually small carpal tunnel. In some cases, doctors are unable to identify a cause of the symptoms. Additional factors that can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome include:
  • Injury or trauma to the wrist that causes swelling
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Mechanical problems of the wrist joint
  • Work stress
  • Repeated use of vibrating tools
  • Fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause
  • A cyst or tumor in the canal
How can you prevent it?
More than one quarter of a million carpal tunnel surgeries are performed each year in the U.S. and 47% of those cases are work-related. To prevent this condition in the workplace, workers should perform stretching exercises (see at the end of the article), take frequent rest breaks, wear splints to keep the wrists in a straight position, and use correct posture and wrist position when using a keyboard. There are many products created for office workers that are designed to make the workstation more ergonomic. Tools such as specially designed computer mouse and keyboards place the hand and wrist in a more ergonomic position to keep the wrists straight instead of bent or cocked. These tools may look a little funny and might even cost a bit more but are definitely worth the investment if you spend a large portion of the day on the computer. In many cases, your workplace will purchase them for you if you simply ask!
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About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

Member Comments

  • Great article. I have recently been diagnosed with carpal tunnel in both hands. It started in my right thumb. The pain is sometimes excruciating. I have problems grasping cups, even my water bottle is painful if I lift it wrong. You just don't know how much you use your thumb until you can't use it! Although I was a typist for over 20 years, I don't have trouble typing. I also don't have the numbness and tingling. I just have pain when I lift things, use scissors, write by hand or use my hands wrong. To top it off I also have trigger thumb. It comes and goes. I wear a brace on both hands which helps a lot.

    Although I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel I will be asking about DeQuervian's syndrome.

    Again, Great Article with lots of informative information. :D

    - 4/4/2016 9:44:36 AM
  • I've been doing some of these exercises and they do help. useful info here. thanks! - 2/11/2016 9:38:13 AM
  • KYLE2147
    I found a cold compression wrap would take the pain away really quickly. It's inflammation in the wrist that puts pressure on the nerves passing through the carpal tunnel and causes the pain. Rest and stretches too, to stimulate blood flow is needed to heal the injury that is causing the inflammation. My job requires a lot of typing, I didn't have time to rest and wait so I also got a blood flow stimulator to speed things up. Both from the site below.

    ent.php?REF=52PV90 - 6/1/2015 10:00:03 AM
  • I worked full time for 15 years transcribing. I was advised to wear wrist braces from the start before any problems which was probably the best piece of advice I ever had. I switched to an ergonomic keyboard (you're right, it's worth it). My desk and chair were proper height for good posture. I took 5-minute break every hour (set a timer to remind me at first) for stretches. I'm happy to say I did not develop CTS.

    A musician friend who plays guitar had painful CTS symptoms. Time off from playing to reduce the stress on her wrists and taking vitamin B6 100 mg 2-3 times a day worked for her (more than 300 mg daily can cause nerve damage in some people). After several months she was able to play and perform again. - 12/4/2014 11:09:59 PM
  • These are the exercises I was doing when I was still in school. Please see video link below. I stopped doing these when I started working and then Carpal Tunnel Syndrome hit me. Now I am doing them again and thankfully it helps relieves tension.
    ?v=cFmZhTc7Gbo - 5/7/2014 10:32:05 AM
  • Great article. Thanks - 7/11/2013 8:33:42 AM
  • Thanks for sharing. - 7/1/2013 7:08:44 AM
  • TREVOR022
    Just had to comment on your blog post. Have been looking for people who are going through the similar pain that I have been with my carpal tunnel syndrome. I have tried a combination of Tumeric and Bromelain that seems to help a bit. I have been using a AWESOME brace I got from this link: http://www.bracea
    Hopefully some of my suggestions will help a bit!
    Good luck!
    - 5/24/2013 4:09:42 PM
  • RICKYO52612
    I had carpal tunnel surgery and it was no picnic let me tell you. I suffered for about 8 years before I was diagnosed with it. The two test that are given to determine if you have carpar tunnel or not is really painful. The longer you wait to have the surgery if needed the less likely you will feel better. My doctor told me that it depends on how extensive the injury will be how well you will heal, and for the surgery to help. I am glad I had the surgery but I waited to long. I still have some pain but not like I used to. I'm happy for how I feel now. My jobs have always consisted of "data entry" and that's where it began, but that's all I know. Well hope this helps a little, good luck to anyone who decided to have surgery. - 5/20/2013 9:37:12 PM
  • I haven't been diagnosed with the carpal tunnel syndrome but I'm pretty sure I'm in the early stages of it. My right thumb hurts/tingles/goe
    s numb when I use my netbook for prolonged periods of time.

    These exercises felt great though. They really stretched out the sore areas. I'll be bookmarking these! - 9/6/2012 10:37:17 PM
    Those exercises really hurt!!! I will have to build up to 5-10 times. I could only do them 2x before the sharp pain made me stop. - 9/6/2012 11:34:09 AM
  • I actually had all of the symptoms you described about 5 years ago when I was editing a report of several hundred pages, single-handed (no pun intended). I lost the grip strength in my right hand for several months, and went to several different orthopedists, and finally to a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist (physiatrist).

    The first orthopedist did not take my symptoms seriously and offered nothing. The second one misdiagnosed me and tentatively suggested surgery as a possible solution to my problem. The physiatrist finally gave me the treatment that made the difference. These three only agreed on one thing: it wasn't carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, there is a book out there appropriately titled: It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! RSI Theory & Therapy for Computer Professionals. Jack Bellis (Author), Suparna Damany (Author) It's basically a soft tissue injury that results from overuse, like tendinitis.

    Once I got the right treatment, it took me about 6 months to recover. The physiatrist prescribed hot and cold water treatments for immediate pain control: soak the affected arm and hand in very hot water for two minutes, followed by soaking in very cold water for two minutes. Repeat, alternating hot and cold water for a total of 10-12 minutes. Then he prescribed several rounds of prolotherapy. For more on this, go to: www.treatingpain.
    com. Strengthening the upper body and maintaining good posture help too.

    I benefited from all of the treatments. I also benefited greatly from an ergonomic evaluation of my work station. I learned the right way to sit and adjust my station, and I learned what to look for in office furniture. I got a new keyboard tray that elevates the mouse pad so I can keep my hands at a constant height and in a neutral position whether using the keys or a mouse. I also got a "natural" keyboard. While waiting for the pain relief to kick in, I began using the mouse in my left hand, and after about a month or so, I made the switch permanent to reduce the strain on my right hand. ... - 7/6/2010 7:52:17 PM
  • I started having problems with tingling and numbness in my hands more than 10 years ago. Since I worked a lot at the computer I assumed it was carpal tunnel. Testing showed it was partly carpal tunnel and partly a problem with the ulnar nerve, which causes the same numbness and tingling in the outer part of the hand. Those exercises, varying my activity and taking vitamin B12 daily have just about eliminated my problems. The B12 is crucial for me, though. If I go more than a day or so without taking it, I start getting tingling again. - 7/6/2010 7:44:16 AM
  • I strongly suggest to anyone experiencing these symptoms - get to a doctor and get it checked. Even if it turns out not to be carpal tunnel, at least you'll know for sure before something more damaging could occur. I've had carpal tunnel for several years (I'm a musician, lots of repetivite motion in my hands and fingers every day). I was diagonosed when I was in college, and by the time I started to have symptoms, I already had some mild permanent nerve damage in my hand. It doesn't affect my day-to-day funtioning, but if I'm typing or playing an instrument where fine control is an issue, there is a slight difference in the reaction time of my hands. - 6/30/2010 9:06:52 AM
    Many years ago I was complaining to my doctor about the symptoms of carpal tunnel. I didn't work on a computer or do any of the things that are known for causing the condition. He gave me the old "if you lose weight" line and I left disgusted. Why is it any and all problems were blamed on my weight. But you know what...he was right. Since losing weight I very seldom have a problem with my wrists. He said fat builds up in the tunnel causing pressure on the nerve. And here's the intersting thing... back in April I had a virus that caused my hands to swell. During that period the carpal tunnel was raging, my hands were constantly tingling and sore. As soon as the virus cleared up, so did the carpal tunnel. So that told me that the doctor was right...anything building up in the tunnel put pressure on the nerve whether it be fat or fluid!
    - 6/30/2010 7:49:28 AM

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