What Exercises Help for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you have mild or moderate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, you might get some benefit from a few simple exercises. But keep in mind that studies are mixed about how much they help. You'll get the best results if you do them along with other treatments, like using a brace and tweaking your activities so they put less strain on your hand and wrist.

When you try hand exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome, remember this isn't like going to the gym to lose weight. Forget the whole "No pain, no gain" idea. If it hurts, take a break. If you push it, you can make your symptoms much worse.

One more tip: Start slow and easy and see how it goes. If you're not sure if an exercise is right for you, check with your doctor.

Shake It Out

This exercise is super easy. It's especially useful at night, when your symptoms can be worse. If you wake up with pain or numbness, just shake your hands out to get some relief.

Fist to Stop Sign

  • Make a fist.
  • Slide your fingers up until they point toward the ceiling, like you're telling someone to stop.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Fist to Fan

  • Make a fist.
  • Fan your fingers out -- stretch them as far as you can.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Thumb Touches

  • One at a time, touch the tip of each finger to the tip of your thumb so they make an O-shape.
  • Repeat a few times.

Basic Wrist Stretches

  • Sit down at a table.
  • Rest your elbow and arm on the table and let your wrist hang over the side, palm of your hand facing up.
  • Start with your hand in a straight, neutral position.
  • Bend your hand toward you so your fingers point up toward the ceiling.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Return to a straight, neutral position.
  • Bend your hand away from you so your fingers point down toward the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Return to a straight, neutral position.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Do this up to three times a day.

Continued

Wrist Flex and Extend

  • Hold your arm straight out in front of you, wrist and hand straight, palm of your hand facing down.
  • Bend your wrist down so your fingers point toward the floor.
  • Use your other hand to increase the stretch, gently pulling the fingers toward your body.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Return to a straight, neutral wrist with palm facing down.
  • Bend your wrist up so your fingertips point toward the ceiling.
  • Use your other hand to gently pull your fingers back toward you.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Do this up to three times a day.

Tendon Gliding

In this exercise, you'll move your fingers and hand through a series of different positions. Take your time and move smoothly from one position to the next:

  • Start with your elbow bent, your wrist straight, your fingers together and pointing toward the ceiling, and your thumb relaxed.
  • Curl your fingers inward, so they're all bent at the middle knuckles and your fingertips touch the top of your palm -- it looks like you're hitchhiking with curled fingers.
  • Straighten your fingers to make an L-shape with your hand -- your thumb's still relaxed.
  • Fold your fingers straight down so your fingertips touch your palm -- you're making a straight-fingered fist with your thumb now tucked in and touching your index finger.
  • Curl your fingers into a regular fist.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Do this two to three times a day.

Nerve Gliding

Like the last exercise, you'll move through a series of positions with this one. Go slow and move smoothly:

  • Bend your elbow and make a fist that faces you -- your wrist is neutral.
  • Straighten your fingers out so they all point up, wrist neutral, thumb tucked in and pointing up.
  • Bend your wrist to point your fingertips away from you, thumb still in close to your fingers.
  • Extend your thumb out to the side.
  • Hold that position, but turn your forearm away from you.
  • Use your other hand to gently pull your thumb down for a little more stretch. Do this for just a few seconds.
  • Repeat three to five times.
  • Do this two to three times a day.

Continued

Wrist Resistance

  • Sit down at a table.
  • Rest your forearm, wrist, and hand on the table, with your palm facing down -- this is the hand and wrist affected by carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Lay your other hand across the knuckles at a 90-degree angle, so your hands make a plus sign.
  • Lift your bottom hand up, but resist with your top one. You'll feel this in the muscles of your forearm.
  • Repeat a few times a day.

Wrist Curl

  • Sit or stand for this one.
  • Grab a 1-pound weight or a can of beans.
  • With your elbows at your side, lift your forearm so your arm makes an L-shape. Your forearm should be parallel to the floor.
  • Start with your wrist straight and neutral, palm with the weight facing down.
  • Bend your wrist up.
  • Return to a straight, neutral position.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Do this up to three times a day.

Hand Squeezes for Grip Strength

  • Squeeze a pair of balled-up socks or a soft rubber ball.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Do this up to three times a day.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on June 6, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: "Carpal tunnel exercises: Can they relieve symptoms?"

PubMed: "Exercise and mobilisation interventions for carpal tunnel syndrome," "The comparative effectiveness of combined lumbrical muscle splints and stretches on symptoms and function in carpal tunnel syndrome."

U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Efficacy of tendon and nerve gliding exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials."

Arthritis Research UK: "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome."

NHS, University Hospital Southampton: "Carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy."

NHS, Oxford University Hospitals: "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome."

Eastern Washington University: "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome."

Arthritis Foundation: "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief."

© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination