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Exercises to Help Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By Emily Lockhart

Medically Reviewed by Eric Leckie, PT

Carpal tunnel syndrome usually manifests itself with a tingling sensation followed by shooting pain the hands and wrists. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused due to repetitive stress, or performing the same forceful activity over and over again—such as packing on an assembly line, playing an instrument, or typing—when pressure is placed on the median nerve, and pain radiates through the wrist, thumb and fingers.

The good news is that with the following five wrist, hand, and shoulder exercises, you can break up the repetitive nature of your day and prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from setting in…

Wrist Stretch

This exercise is intended to stretch tight forearm flexor muscles that are restricting the median nerve. To perform this exercise:

  • Extending one arm in front of the body, fingers together and palm facing down
  •  Use the opposite hand to gently apply pressure and bend the fingers and wrist downward
  • Hold for 10 seconds
  • You should feel this stretch in your upper wrist and forearm muscles
  • Repeat 5 times on both wrists

Range of Motion Wrist Circles

Moving the wrist in a circular manner will help encourage and improve the range of motion in your wrists. To perform:

  • Make a fist
  • In the air, turn the wrist in clockwise circles 5 times
  • Then repeat this exercise 5 times, but now counterclockwise
  • Alternate back and forth on both wrists 10 time each

Wrist Extension & Straighten

Moving between extending and straightening the wrists will encourage blood flow and loosen tight muscles in the wrists and fingers. To perform this exercise:

  • Hold wrists flat
  • Extend both wrists with fingers up as if you were pushing against an imaginary wall
  • Hold this position for five seconds
  • Then return the wrists and fingers to a flat, relaxed position
  • Take a break and then repeat 5 times for both wrists

Fist Flexion

Stretching your upper wrists and forearms with a clenched fist will alleviate pain in these areas. To perform exercise:

  • Turn the right palm up
  • Make a loose fist with the right hand
  • First apply gentle downward pressure to your fist using the left hand
  • Hold for 5 to 10 seconds
  • Then apply upward pressure to your fist using the left hand
  • Repeat on the left side

Neck & Shoulder Stretch

You can also stretch the neck and shoulder muscles to help loosen nerves and muscles in your upper body and encourage blood flow. To perform this exercise:

  •  Stand with your left hand on top of your right shoulder
  •  Hold that shoulder down and tip your head to the left, leading with your chin
  •  Hold for 5 seconds
  • Repeat on opposite side, alternating 5 times between sides

DPT, Doctor of Physiotherapy

Eric Leckie is a men's health Physiotherapist specializing in prostate cancer treatment. He completed his studies in Australia earning his Doctor of Physiotherapy from the University of Melbourne. He currently works in a private practice, in addition to owning his own Telehealth Physiotherapy clinic which focuses on treating men with prostate cancer.

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