4 Carpal Tunnel Exercises for Your Wrists

Medically Reviewed By | Dr. Kate Panawash, PT, NCS, DPT

Are you experiencing wrist pain or discomfort? Have you been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Discover effective exercises for managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and promoting wrist wellness. 

Let’s explore practical exercises to alleviate symptoms associated with CTS. Understanding the importance of therapeutic exercises and seeking medical guidance before starting any regimen is crucial for optimal results and overall health.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? 

This common condition occurs due to the compression of the median nerve in the wrist. This nerve compression can result from repetitive motions or inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of CTS include tingling, numbness, or pain in the hand and wrist, affecting daily activities. 

The median nerve, responsible for sensations in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and a portion of the ring finger, gets compressed due to swelling or inflammation in the carpal tunnel. 

Knowing about these symptoms and the impact of CTS on your daily life is crucial in seeking appropriate treatment and incorporating helpful exercises into your routine. Seeking advice from a healthcare professional or orthopedic specialist is essential for proper diagnosis and guidance.

What Activities Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Activities causing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) primarily involve repetitive or prolonged movements that put strain on the wrists and hands. 

These activities commonly include the following.

  • Repetitive Hand Movements: Occupations or hobbies that involve repetitive hand and wrist actions, such as typing for extended periods, using vibrating tools, or assembly line work, can contribute to CTS.

  • Awkward Wrist Positions: Performing tasks that require the wrist to be bent or held in an awkward position for a prolonged time, like using a computer mouse or holding a phone, may increase pressure on the median nerve.

  • Forceful Gripping: Jobs or activities that demand forceful and repetitive gripping, such as using hand tools or operating machinery, can strain the wrists, leading to CTS symptoms.

  • Vibrating Equipment: Frequent use of vibrating equipment, such as power tools or machinery, can contribute to wrist strain and nerve compression, exacerbating CTS symptoms over time.

  • Certain Sports or Hobbies: Activities that involve repetitive wrist movements, such as playing instruments like the guitar or piano, knitting, or playing certain sports like racquet sports, may also contribute to the development of CTS.

Understanding these activities is essential in identifying potential risk factors and taking preventive measures. Making ergonomic adjustments, taking breaks, and practicing wrist exercises can help mitigate the impact of these activities on wrist health and reduce the risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

When faced with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), various treatment approaches can help manage symptoms and improve wrist health. Non-invasive options include therapeutic exercise programs tailored to alleviate pressure on the median nerve. 

“Seeking an evaluation by a Physical or an Occupational Therapist can be very helpful. Either profession may be a CHT (Certified Hand Therapist) and they have specialized experience,” notes Katelyn Panawash, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Board Certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist (NCS).

Wrist splints or braces may provide support and alleviate discomfort, especially during activities aggravating CTS symptoms. In some cases, healthcare professionals might recommend steroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pressure on the nerve. Surgical intervention might be considered in severe or persistent cases. 

What Exercises Are Most Effective for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? 

When combating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), incorporating targeted exercises into your routine can significantly alleviate discomfort and enhance wrist mobility. These exercises should focus on reducing pressure on the median nerve, providing relief from tingling, numbness, or pain associated with CTS.

Wrist Stretches and Flexor Exercises

Begin with Wrist Flexor Stretches. Extend your arm forward, palm up, and gently bend your wrist downwards, holding for a few seconds. This stretch helps maintain flexibility and reduces tension in the wrist. 

Follow this with the Wrist Extensor Stretch by turning your palm down and gently pulling your hand towards you. This movement aids in promoting better mobility and alleviating strain.

Tendon Glides are also effective. Start by making a fist and slowly opening your hand, stretching your fingers as wide as possible. Repeat this motion several times, ensuring a smooth, controlled movement. Tendon glides work wonders in relieving pressure and improving comfort.

Nerve Gliding Exercises

Engage in Palm-Facing exercises. Gently bend your wrist forward and backward, keeping your palm facing toward you and then away from you. 

This movement helps mobilize the median nerve, reducing compression and associated symptoms. Practice these exercises mindfully, ensuring a gentle yet effective glide to soothe discomfort.

The Prayer Stretch is beneficial. Place your palms together in a prayer position with your fingers pointing upward. Slowly lower your hands toward waist level while keeping your elbows apart. Hold this position, feeling a stretch along the wrists and forearms. 

Prayer stretches, combined with maintaining a Neutral Position during exercises, contribute significantly to relieving pressure and discomfort.

Home Exercises and Repetitions

Consistency in performing exercises is key. Incorporate exercises into your daily routine, ensuring you maintain balance and symmetry by engaging the opposite hand. 

Gradually increase repetitions as your comfort and flexibility improve. Aim for around 10 repetitions of each exercise, gradually progressing as tolerated.

It's imperative to consider these exercises as part of a comprehensive therapeutic exercise program for CTS. Therefore, seeking advice from a physical therapist or healthcare professional is crucial. “It is important to expand the evaluation beyond the wrist, a Physical Therapist or other healthcare professional will make sure to complete a comprehensive evaluation to pin point the cause and the most effective treatment plan for you,” notes Panawash.

They can offer personalized guidance, ensure correct technique execution, and monitor progress for optimal results. They may also suggest integrating a wrist sleeve, such as the one from Incrediwear, into your treatment plan to soothe the strain on your wrist and keep it supported during exercise. 

By integrating these exercises into your routine and following professional guidance, you can effectively manage CTS symptoms and enhance overall wrist health. Remember, consistency and proper technique are key factors in achieving relief from CTS-related discomfort.

Wrapping Up

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) presents as a distressing medical condition, impacting individuals' daily lives due to symptoms like wrist flexion limitations, carpal tunnel pain, and diminished hand function. However, it's reassuring that through a therapeutic exercise program for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, including stretching exercises and specific wrist extension techniques, relief from these symptoms is attainable. 

Seeking medical advice from professionals can guide individuals towards the best exercises for their unique conditions. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in mitigating CTS discomfort by investigating the root cause the providing targeted activities to address your symptoms.

Recognizing the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome early and adopting appropriate exercises under professional guidance can significantly alleviate discomfort, allowing individuals to manage this medical condition effectively and improve their overall wrist health.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Pathophysiology and Comprehensive Guidelines for Clinical Evaluation and Treatment | NIH

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) | CDC

Carpal Tunnel Release | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Review of Literature | NIH

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