The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or CTS, is caused by the median nerve being pressed or squeezed. This nerve runs from the forearms through the Carpal Tunnel in our wrists and ends in the center of our palms.
A restriction of the Carpal Tunnel passageway will create pressure on the nerve, which will result in pain and numbness of the hands and arms. Researchers have proven that women and anybody over 50 are the groups most likely to be affected by this condition.
However, nowadays between 1 and 5% of the world’s adult population is affected by CTS. Being aware of effective at-home exercises to reduce the pain will also lower the chances of needing an open release surgery.
At-home exercises: things to keep in mind:
- The best results are usually achieved if combining the following exercises with other treatments and avoiding daily activities that put a strain on your wrist.
- Overdoing the exercises won’t help to strengthen your wrist. Often, in fact, light training is preferable to one that increases the pressure on the Tunnel.
- Most of these exercises don’t require equipment and can be repeated anywhere you feel comfortable.
The following exercises are designed to increase the flexibility and strength of your wrist by creating deep stretching movements and holding that position for a set time.
Fist to Stop Sign
This is an easy movement that can be repeated anywhere and as long as you feel comfortable. Start with your hand in a fist in front of you. Slowly straighten your fingers into a “halt” sign, with your fingers all touching one another, then return to the initial position. This can be alternated with opening your hand with your fingers spread.
Stand or sit with your arm straight in front of you. Your hand should be in line with your shoulder and your palm facing downwards. Keep your hand semi-relaxed with your finger naturally spread. Use your other hand to put pressure on the top of your fingers and push the down-facing hand towards yourself, bending the wrist. This movement produces a very deep stretch, so don’t overstress your wrist as this could make your condition worse. Once you reached the maximum stretch point hold the position for 15 to 15 seconds.
Find a sitting comfortable position with a hard surface in front of you (i.e. a table). Stretch your arm over the surface, with your palm flat against it. Bring your other hand on top of the affected one, perpendicularly (your arms should be making a cross sign). The hand on the bottom (The affected one) should push upwards, and the hand on the top should be resisting, creating a downward force. This exercise stretches the wrist and your lower forearm.
2. Grip Strength
Reduced grip strength is one of the first symptoms of CTS. Through relieving the pain and increasing fingers and hand strength this condition can be improved and improve the completion of daily activities that you might be currently struggling with.
Get yourself a stress ball (balled up socks work just as well). Hold it with your affected hand and squeeze it gently, then release it. Repeat this easy movement as much as you feel comfortable.
Thumb To Fingers Touches
Start with your hand open, then bring your thumb and one of the fingers together (one at a time). You should be forming an “O” shape. Bring your hand into the initial position after every touch and continue with the next finger. Try to repeat this movement at least 5 times for each finger. You will notice increased mobility and flexibility of your hand.
Curling Your Wrist
Find a lightweight object (1 pound) that is easy to grab. A can of beans or a sauce bottle will be perfect. Bend your arm at 90 degrees so your elbow touches your side and your forearm faces the floor. Your palm should be facing downward in the initial position and holding the weight. Roll your wrist upward so you are facing the top of your hand. Return into the initial position slowly and repeat at 5-10 times.
3. Gliding Movements
These exercises involve a series of continuous movements to relieve the pain and tension of all areas affected by CTS, especially the median nerve and the tendons in our hands.
- Start with your arm straight in front of you. Your hand should be also straight but perpendicular to your arm (fingers facing the ceiling).
- Curve the top of your fingers downward and keep this position
- Then proceed to curl the whole of your fingers into a fist-like position.
- Lastly, stretch your fingers horizontally so they form a 90 degrees angle with your palm.
- Repeat all the positions in reverse until you are back in the initial stage. Repeat 4-5 times a day.
- Start with your arm bent at the elbow and your hand in a fist facing you.
- Spread your fingers towards the ceiling, while keeping the thumb close to the hand.
- Stretch your arm forward with your palm flat
- Rotate the palm so it faces the floor
- Spread the thumb and use the other hand to push it slightly back so it is in a stretching position.
- Hold the last position then repeat all the steps in reverse. This exercise can be done 4-5 times a day.
The Importance of Prevention
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often triggered by pursuing and exercising a career in professions that overstress the wrist. Welders, mechanics or piano players are among the groups most likely to suffer from CTS, while the functionality of their hands and wrists are determining factors in their careers.
The mentioned exercises and proper training are essential to avoid suffering from CTS. For example, in the music field, undertaking specialized music lessons that focus on the correct posture and movement of the wrist and arm is necessary to prevent CTS from spoiling an otherwise brilliant career.