Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
If you have ongoing pain or numbness in your thumb or the first three fingers of your hand, you could be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. While most people associate the condition with repetitive motion tasks like typing, assembly work, construction work, some sports, etc., there are actually a full range of possible causes. In fact, many people not even know they have carpal tunnel syndrome. One simple test to check is called the Phalen’s test.
To do this, hold your arms out in front of you and flex your wrists, letting your hands hang down for about 60 seconds. If you feel tingling, numbness, or pain in the fingers within 60 seconds, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome.
The pain and loss of sensation come from compression of the median nerve in the wrist. Some medical causes can include obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, diabetes, lupus and hypothyroidism.
Carpal tunnel is three times more common in women than men. Lifestyle factors like smoking, high salt intake and being sedentary can also play a role in carpal tunnel because they can restrict blood flow.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they can take steps to prevent and alleviate carpal tunnel issues. Here are some suggestions.
Do warm-up exercises
People whose carpal tunnel is aggravated by repetitive motion activities should do some warm-up exercises beforehand.
- Place one arm straight out in front of you, elbow straight, with your wrist extended and fingers facing the floor.
- Spread your fingers slightly and use your other hand to apply gentle pressure to down-facing hand, stretching your wrist and fingers as far as you can.
- When you reach your maximum point of flexibility, hold this position for about 20 seconds.
- Switch hands and repeat.
- Repeat this set with fingers facing the ceiling.
Other therapeutic options
In many instances, a strength imbalance in the wrist and forearm muscles can be an aggravating factor. One exercise you can do to correct the imbalance includes using a special ball with a gyroscope inside. Watch the video with Bruce St. James to get the full instructions.
Ultrasound and electrical stimulation treatments can also relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel for some.
When activity causes pain and numbness to flare, one simple way to gain some relief is to apply ice packs to your wrist for 20 minutes at a time.
If possible, patients with carpal tunnel symptoms should avoid activities that inflame the nerve. When combined with a therapy regimen designed to strengthen and balance the proper muscle groups, rest can alleviate the painful symptoms.
If you’ve tried exercise, rest and other therapies and are still experiencing pain, a doctor can give an injection into the painful area. In many cases the injection provides almost immediate relief for chronic sufferers.
In chronic cases where carpal tunnel pain persists, there are surgical options that usually eliminate any symptoms, according to ehealthmd.com. The primary surgical method involves making an incision in the wrist and then dividing the ligaments to provide more space in the tunnel to keep the nerve from being compressed. Another procedure uses a thin tube inserted into the wrist, allowing the surgeon to make the repair with a smaller incision. One less common option involves inserting a balloon into the tunnel where it is inflated to create more space and then removed. Its effectiveness is unproven.
If you have pain or numbness in your fingers or wrist that could be indicative of carpal tunnel problems, and you should consult with an experienced physician to discuss an effective treatment process. By dealing with the issue during early stages, you might be able to prevent and reverse damage and avoid needing more serious remedies like surgery.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.
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