When performed regularly, certain exercises can help to improve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. These exercises are designed to stretch the forearm muscles and reduce tension on tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel and to help strengthen the muscles. Many exercises for carpal tunnel may also help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place.
Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: An Overview
There are several different treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome. Exercises are one option often recommended by healthcare providers or physical therapists.
Carpal tunnel exercises are designed to stretch the forearm muscles and reduce tension on tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel. They may also help strengthen the muscles. Exercise by itself may be helpful for treating carpal tunnel syndrome, but is probably most helpful when combined with other carpal tunnel treatment options, including splinting and activity modifications. Make sure to talk with your healthcare provider or physical therapist about exercises that make the most sense in your particular situation. Some exercises are only recommended after symptoms have improved.
Many of these same exercises may also help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place. If you perform a job that keeps your hands in one position, you may want to incorporate these preventive exercises into your daily routine.
Tendon gliding and median nerve-gliding exercises are two types of exercises that may help with carpal tunnel syndrome. These exercises are thought to relieve pressure on the median nerve and stretch the carpal ligaments, which also helps decrease pressure. They are also thought to help blood flow out of the carpal tunnel, which can help decrease fluid pressure.
Research on the benefits of these exercises has been mixed. Some research has shown that these carpal tunnel exercises can improve symptoms and decrease the need for surgery. Other studies have shown improvements in grip strength, but no other effects on symptoms. People with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome seem to benefit the most from these exercises.
Rozmaryn LM, Dovelle S, Rothman ER, Gorman K, Olvey KM, Bartko JJ. Nerve and tendon gliding exercises and the conservative management of carpal tunnel syndrome. J Hand Ther. 1998 Jul-Sep;11(3):171-9.
Piazzini DB, Aprile I, Ferrara PE, Bertolini C, Tonali P, Maggi L, Rabini A, Piantelli S, Padua L. A systematic review of conservative treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Clinical Rehabilitation, April 1, 2007; 21(4): 299-314.
Akalin E, El O, Peker O, et al. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome with nerve and tendon gliding exercises. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2002; 81: 108-113.
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