These 7 Carpal Tunnel Stretches Will Bring You Relief

meThis has happened to most of us who work on a computer: after a long day, our entire hand and wrist feel cramped and uncomfortable. Usually after a night away from our desk, the pain fades with the stress of the day. But what if it persists?

It could be carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition of the wrist or hand caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the spinal cord to the arm, elbow, wrist, and hand.

“Imagine trying to sip water through a pinched straw. When the water reaches the compressed part, no water can get through,” says Autumn Hanson, DPT, physical therapist and owner of PERMISSION2MOVE. “Something similar happens when the carpal tunnel narrows or the structures in it swell.”

This can cause pain, weakness, numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation in the forearm and hand, most commonly the thumb, index, and ring fingers, says Dr. Hanson. The onset is usually gradual. “Many patients experience symptoms for the first time during sleep: the strange numbness or tingling sensation in the first three fingers makes them want to change the position of the hand, after they wake up to regain sensation,” he says.

Carpal tunnel can have several causes: “Injury to the arm or wrist; hormonal or metabolic changes during pregnancy, menopause, and even diabetes,” says Dr. Hanson. People with jobs or hobbies that require repetitive use of the hands (like video game players, musicians, hairdressers, or, yes, desk workers) are also at risk.

If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome could cause lasting damage to the nerve. Fortunately, Dr. Hanson says that doing carpal tunnel stretches in the early stages can prevent more serious symptoms.

The best stretches for carpal tunnel syndrome

Since these stretches target the nerve, you’ll want to take a different approach than you would for a tight muscle. “It’s best not to hold the stretch,” says Dr. Hanson. “Releasing a nerve from tension is best done with a fluid motion, rather than a static hold.”

1. Forearm self-massage

Dr. Hanson suggests starting by massaging the inner forearm to understand which muscles are involved, while bringing blood flow and nutrients to tight muscles.

  • Relax your forearm on a table or pillow. Place your palm facing up and gently rub your forearm muscles with your opposite hand for 30 to 60 seconds.

2. Flexion/extension of wrist mobility

This movement helps mobilize the median nerve and stretch the tight muscles and surrounding tissues.

  • Start with your elbow bent and your hand bent so that your palm faces the inside of your forearm and shoulder.
  • In a fluid motion, extend your wrist (moving your hand in the opposite direction so the back of your hand is facing the hairy side of your arm) and elbow, slowly straightening your arm until you start to feel symptoms, then immediately return to your starting position.
  • Complete four to seven times.

3. Median Nerve Slip

This stretch helps mobilize the median nerve wherever it is trapped or compressed. “It’s important to restore the glide of the nerve to prevent any excess strain as it travels down the arm,” says Dr. Hanson.

  • Start with your arm pointing out to the side, parallel to the ground (like half a T), with your fingers curled up toward the sky.
  • Tilt your head away from your fingers.
  • As you extend your wrist and point your fingers toward the floor, simultaneously bring your head toward your outstretched arm. Move your hand and head back and forth in a fluid motion.
  • Complete four to five times.

4. Active wrist extension

  • With your hands in a prayer position, bring them together to activate your forearm muscles.
  • Keeping the pressure on your hands, turn your fingertips toward the ground and then toward the sky.
  • Repeat five times.

5. Active wrist flexion

“This movement lengthens the wrist extensors while allowing the wrist flexors to move through their available range of motion,” says Dr. Hanson.

  • With your elbows bent at 90 degrees, place your hands in front of you as if you were carrying a plate.
  • With your palms facing up, curl your fingers toward your palm, then curl your wrist toward your forearm as you bring your wrists toward your shoulders.
  • Repeat five times.

6. Wrist Circles

  • With your fingers straight and your wrists bent back, move your wrist in a circle five times in one direction, then five times in the other.
  • Then make a fist with your hands and fingers and circle five more times in each direction.

7. Chest Opener

Dr. Hanson notes that opening the front of the body can release tension in the upper body muscles that surround the median nerve.

  • Place a foam roller or rolled towel on the floor and lay your spine on the length with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring your fingertips up toward the ceiling, feeling a stretch between your shoulder blades.
  • Then, separate your hands and bring them towards the floor.
  • Repeat five times before allowing your arms to rest on the floor to feel a stretch in your chest.

The best time to stretch

Stretching can be part of an effective carpal tunnel syndrome rehabilitation program, but it’s even better to be proactive and start stretching as soon as you notice the first symptoms. And you don’t have to wait for discomfort to start—these moves can also help prevent the condition.

“All of these exercises are great to do if you’re at higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome,” says Dr. Hanson. “It’s much easier to resolve your symptoms when you first start experiencing them, rather than allowing them to progress.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.