3 Best Exercises to Manage Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Occupational Therapy | Hand Therapy

Hi everyone, hope you guys are having a great day. So today, I would like to hop on and then talk a little bit about carpal tunnel syndrome. The three great exercises or stretching exercises that can help to relieve carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptom of the numbness tingling going on.

What is Carpal Tunnel?

So first of all, we can talk about the mechanics of it. So Carpal Tunnel is pretty much like this. I’m using some pens and markers and a rubber band to make an analogy of this. Carpal Tunnel is a ligament on top of several bones in the wrist that’s forming a channel of tunnels.

And then we have several tendons going into our fingers that pass through the tunnel.  Also the median nerve that pass through the middle of the tunnel.

So, whenever there are tingling inflammation going on happening at the ligament on top of the carpal tunnel or some tingling swelling happening of all the tendons. Then the pressure within the tunnel will be increase.

And so, the nerve would be compressed, having pressured. And then the nerve starts to be angry. And then that’s why we are feeling some numbness tingling for carpal tunnel syndrome.  Also for some folks, there might be some weakness happening in their hand.

So the stretches are basically trying to restore the space within the tunnel so that the circulation to the nerve can be better. And then that’s how the stretches, the exercise I’m gonna show you guys can be effective in managing the condition.

3 Best Exercises to Manage Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

1. Rainbow Stretch

The first one, I call that a rainbow stretch. So a rainbow stretch is you start by crossing your arm to the other shoulder. And then you draw a rainbow all the way to the side. And then it’s very important to the side. 

Everything. The forearm, the inside of your arm is facing to the sealing, and then you are straightening your wrist, pointing your fingers towards the floor to fully elongate all the soft tissue there and then come back in. You straighten everything out, and then come back in.

And then remember that to manage carpal tunnel syndrome, nothing is a sustained hold because nerve cannot be stretched. Nerve, it’s not muscles, it’s not elastic. It can only be glide and mobilized but it can never be stretched.

That’s anatomically different for nerves compared to muscles. And then make sure the entire process of the rainbow is a stretch so you need to fully elongate your arm. All the way out, and then all the way in.

And then, the focus of this exercise is gliding the median nerve to move it long and then to move it short. So it’s kind of like creating a gliding type of motion of the median nerve happening within the tunnel. And so the circulation would be better this way.

And then also when during the process, we are fully elongating the arm all the way. It’s kind of creating the effect… 

Creating some tension along the fascia, which are the soft tissue that will eventually connect it to the ligament on top. It can create a very minimal effect of pulling it out and then coming back in. A very mild pull and then, coming back in.

Very, very minimal amount of enlarging the space during the process. So that’s why it’s being very important to reach all the way out, and then all the way in. That’s the first exercise, I call that a rainbow stretch.

2. Prayer's Stretch

The second one, is a prayer’s stretch. The prayer’s stretch will be more targeting the transverse carpal ligament which is the ligament I talked about on top of the carpal tunnel. To create a same effect of stretching, opening and then loosening the ligament on top.

And then the way to do that is you simply put your palms together to form a prayer’s position and then you go as low as you feel. A little pull, a little stretch there, and then you come back. And then you switch to your fist, and then you go down fist by fist. You go up again, prayer’s stretch and then fist against fist.

This is the same thing that create a little bit of opening mild stretching and then release of the ligament. The top of the carpal tunnel, very, very mild. And then it also creates some very mild gliding of the median nerve happening within the tunnel. That’s the second exercise, I call that a prayer’s stretch.

3. Air Guitar

The third exercise, I call that the air guitar. But that basically is you just flex your fingers along the second joint from your palm. So, it’s like this. It’s not the full fist, this is wrong. You only flex the second joint. Second joint of each of your hand.

And then if you want to have a better control, you can totally stabilize with the opposite hand. The air guitar. And then, the reason why this one is effective… It’s because, we not only have the tendon in the carpal tunnel.

Again, like what I said earlier. Other than the median nerve, we also have other tendons within the carpal tunnel. 

So, by just doing the air guitar exercise we are able to isolate each tendon. And then create gliding happening at each of the tendon which hence kind of provides a plumbing effect that can also increase the spacing, improve the circulation within the carpal tunnel. 

That’s how to relieve the pressure within the carpal tunnel that’s causing the carpal tunnel syndrome. And then causing the numbness, tingling and even weakness in our hands.

So these are the three good exercises to do to help you manage carpal tunnel syndrome.

And then last but not the least. I also want to talk a little bit about why people would develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

It’s hugely because now a days, we are using our computers a lot. And then most of the times, our tables are too high or our seats are too low. Or some sort of setting about our seats that’s having some problem.

And then eventually, we are putting a lot of pressure on to our wrist. Especially when we are tiny, we put too much pressure on our wrist. And then, that’s causing some extra pressure at the carpal tunnel syndrome.

So a very easy fix is to make sure the height of your chair/your stool and then the height of your table is proper. If it’s appropriately set-up, you should be able to put your forearm on the surface of the table. 

My elbow is at 90 degrees. And the forearm is fully supported so that my shoulders are relax, my arms up support it.

And then if you have better chairs, it would be great if they have some sort of arm support. And then, that can help your muscles to relax better.  So you won’t build up too much tension in the carpal tunnel in your wrist.

So these are the exercises and the tips and then some knowledge about carpal tunnel syndrome.
And I hope you guys learned something. 

If you have any questions, feel free to let us know. I’m Andy Tseng physical therapist and occupational therapist at CORE Therapy and Pilates.

If you ever have any question, feel free to give us a call at 512-215-4227.
We look forward to working with you. Have a great day everyone.

Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist at CORE Therapy and Pilates
Andy is passionate about providing a holistic approach to help people in Austin stay active and fit. He has a special interest in helping musicians perform more freely and comfortably. To better serve his patients, he acquired his manual therapy certification (MTC) through USAHS in 2018, and he is in the process of becoming a certified hand therapist. He also completed his Comprehensive Pilates and pre-/post-natal training through Core Pilates NYC, and became a certified classical Pilates instructor in 2019.
"Andy" Chin-Hueng Tseng