What is carpal tunnel? There is a common misconception that any pain, numbness, tingling, etc. in the forearm, hand, wrist, fingers is considered carpal tunnel. However, carpal tunnel syndrome actually refers to one specific part of your hand/wrist. Many carpal tunnel treatments address only this particular part of the extremity, but these 5 exercises will help alleviate symptoms for most other nerve pathologies in the upper extremities as well!
1. Ligamentum Nuchae
The origin of the nerves that run down your arms are in your neck, so we should start here. The ligamentum nuchae is a big ligamentum that runs from the base of the skull into the spine.
Mobilizing this ligamentum can help relieve tightness from looking down at your phone/computer, reading a book etc.
At the base of your skull, squeeze around the back of your neck. As you squeeze down your neck, feel which segment seems tight or tender or restricted. When you find the spot, hold and slowly tuck your chin until you feel a stretch.
2. Shoulder Clocks
Shoulder position is important in giving length to the nerves in your arms. Setting up the proper postures is key for preventing and treating carpal tunnel. For this exercise, you’ll pretend like there’s a clock on your shoulder. Move your shoulder up and down to hit each number on the clock and reset to the center after each number. So start with one by moving your shoulder slightly up and forward and bring it back to center. Then try 2:00. You’ll notice that some times are harder than others, so focus on the times you’re struggling with. Try doing this on each shoulder both clockwise and counterclockwise.
3. Terminal Elbow Extension
If you find yourself getting elbow pain when typing or using the mouse, this exercise might be for you. Sit in front of a desk or table and extend your arm palm up and place it on the table. Straighten your arm so that you make a triangle with your arm, the table and your body. From there, you’ll want to take your other arm and push on your elbow crease, forcing it to stabilize. You can push above and below the elbow crease to assess where your arm is weakest and focus on strengthening those areas. Try this on both arms!
4. C’s and G’s
Next is working on the intrinsic muscles in your hands and fingers with two simple motions. Hold up your hands and bend your fingers so that they look as though they are making a “C”. Then slightly bend your fingers inward to imitate a “G”. This motion will activate the muscles in your hands that control your fingers.
5. Wrist Distraction
Using your left hand, grab your right thumb. With an open hand, place your right pinky finger against your sternum. You'll then want to pull your right hand down your sternum while using light resistance with your left hand so that you are gently tugging your thumb. Remember to be gentle. Try this exercise out on both hands and see how you're feeling!
Remember to consult a healthcare professional before starting an exercise routine, but I hope these exercises provide some relief for your carpal tunnel symptoms!
Dr. Joey Luo