Have you ever noticed tingling and numbness in one of your hands? Maybe you experience hand and wrist pain during and after activities. These symptoms are related to carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause tremendous hand pain.
You’d be amazed when you consider all the chores your hands do in a day. Each hand is a complex system of muscles, connective tissue, and bone. They work with your fingers, wrists, and lower arms to complete simple and complicated tasks.
According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine, you have approximately 30 muscles in your hand. Your hands contain about one-fourth of all of your body’s bones. Eight of these bones compose the carpus of your wrist.
Your Wrist’s Many Movements (and the Causes of Wrist Pain)
Not only do you use your hands for work, but they also are essential for your sense of touch. The American Physical Therapy Association publication describes three major peripheral nerve branches responsible for movement and communication in your hand. The ulnar nerve branches toward each pinky finger, and the radial nerve branches toward your thumb.
The median nerve runs right through the center of your hands and wrists. Through a carpal tunnel protective passageway, it converges with blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons. They protect these crucial components as your hands and wrists constantly move.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Your median nerves can be affected when your hands and wrist make repetitive motions for extended periods. The same can happen if you have rheumatoid arthritis or have injured your wrist. Your carpal tunnel can become inflamed, causing median nerve compression and pain.
According to statistics published by the National Library of Medicine, this condition affects at least one to three in every 1000 Americans. If you’re a woman, you’re ten times more likely than a man to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the article, it can lead to irreversible median nerve damage if not treated.
Signs and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Here are some common signs of issues with the carpal tunnel in your wrist.
- Tingling or numbness in your finger and thumb, but not so much in your pinky.
- The symptoms may worsen at night, and the hand and wrist pain may interfere with sleep.
- You notice a gradual weakness in your hand and have less grip strength.
- Ordinary tasks like carrying or holding objects become challenging and sometimes painful.
- In more severe cases, your ability to sense hot and cold temperatures in your hand may be affected.
Easy Exercises to Cope With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Wrist Pain
You may wear a brace on the affected hand if you’ve been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. You can also do some easy hand exercises to relieve some symptoms. Here are eight activities you can do at home or work.
1. Wrist Flex
If you’re working and feel hand pain or wrist pain, this simple exercise can help. It stretches the muscles toward the outer top of your forearms. Try to make the movements as smooth as possible. Here’s how:
1. Stand in a relaxed position and stretch your right arm until aligning with your shoulder, palm facing down.
2. Let your elbow relax, and try not to lock it while stretching.
3. Now, bend your wrist gently until your fingers point toward the floor. Hold this position for about five breaths.
4. Place your left hand on the front of your right fingers. Gently and smoothly pull your bent right hand back toward your body. You should feel a slight stretch on the outside of your forearm. Hold this position for ten to fifteen breaths.
5. Release the hold and return your hand to the starting position. This back-and-forth movement equals one set, and you want to do five repetitions.
6. Switch to your left arm and repeat the steps for another five repetitions.
2. Wrist Extensions
The motions of gripping can cause burning pain when you have carpal tunnel syndrome. This exercise stretches and strengthens the inner muscles of your forearm. Consider doing a few repetitions before you do any lifting or working with your hands. Here’s how:
1. Stand or sit in a relaxed position and extend your left arm straight in front of your body. It should be level with the height of your left shoulder. Keep your elbow relaxed without locking it.
2. Next, bend your left wrist back until your fingers are pointing straight toward the ceiling. It’s the same position as if you were signaling someone to stop.
3. Place your right palm on your raised left fingers and gently grip them. Pull your left hand backward toward your body just until you feel a slight stretch. Be careful not to overextend your hand, as it can cause pain or possible injury.
4. Hold this position for at least ten to fifteen breaths. Release your hand and return to the starting position.
5. Repeat these steps at least five times.
6. Switch to your right arm and repeat the steps.
3. Hand Clenching
The tendons running through your carpal tunnel are responsible for several movements, such as clenching your fists. An article published by the National Library of Medicine suggests that exercises like these may ease carpal tunnel syndrome. They are also called tendon glides. Here’s how:
1. First, bend your right elbow up at a 90-degree angle. Stretch your fingers and thumb, and they should be pointing up toward the ceiling.
2. Twist your fingers at the middle joint until they form a hook. Hold this position for three breaths.
3. Bring your bent fingers into the palm of your hand to make a stiff fist. Your thumb should be on top of your clenched fingers. Hold this position for three breaths and slowly return to the starting position.
4. Your goal is five to ten repetitions, then switch to your left hand and repeat the steps for another five to ten repetitions.
4. Wrist Lift
When you strengthen your lower forearms, you may have less hand pain and wrist pain from carpal tunnel syndrome. You’ll need a table or another flat surface for this easy exercise. It’s ideal to do while you’re working at a desk. Here’s how:
1. Put your right hand right on your desk or table.
2. Next, put your left hand across your right knuckles to form a 90-degree angle.
3. As you gently lift the fingers and wrist of your right hand, press down on it with your left hand simultaneously. Be sure to use gentle pressure. You will feel some opposition and stretching in your right upper forearm.
4. Hold this position for five breaths, then relax.
5. Aim for five to ten reps, switch to your left hand, and repeat the steps.
5. Hand Squeezes
You probably have a colorful rubber stress ball at work or home to relieve stress. Did you know this exercise can also help minimize pain from carpal tunnel syndrome? If you don’t have a stress ball at your place, roll a clean sock into a ball. Here’s how:
1. Hold the ball in your right hand.
2. Squeeze the ball tightly for five seconds and then release it.
3. Repeat this step at least ten times.
4. Try to do three sets of ten repetitions.
5. Now, take the ball in your left hand and repeat the steps.
6. Median Nerve Glide
When your median nerve becomes compressed from carpal tunnel syndrome, you may battle constant hand and wrist pain. This easy-glide exercise can help improve the nerve’s mobility, reducing pain. You can do it often during the day when your hands are their busiest. Here’s how:
1. First, draw your right hand into a fist with your thumb outside against your forefinger.
2. Uncurl your right fingers and stretch them out straight while keeping your thumb in the same position against your forefinger.
3. Next, bend your right hand gently toward your forearm and stretch your thumb to the side. Turn your palm to face you.
4. Use your left hand to apply gentle pressure on your right thumb to stretch it more.
5. As you change each position, hold it for three to eight seconds.
6. Release your right hand and repeat the steps for your left hand.
7. Wrist Weight Lifts
For this exercise, you’ll need a light hand weight or a can of food. The goal is to stretch and strengthen your forearms’ flexor muscles. As you get more comfortable with the exercise, you can increase your weight. Here’s how:
1. Hold your weight in your left hand and stretch your arm straight out with your palm facing down.
2. Raise your hand and weight slowly toward your arm by bending your wrist.
3. Then, lower it back to the first position.
4. Try to do ten repetitions at least three times.
5. Switch to your right hand and repeat the steps.
Final Thoughts on Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Hand and Wrist Pain
The wrist and hand pain of carpal tunnel syndrome can affect your daily activities at home and on the job. If you periodically rest your hands and do these exercises as a routine, you may minimize the symptoms. It may make a big difference in how you feel and work.