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Exercises to Prevent Carpal Tunnel

written by: Stephanie Mojica • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 2/11/2010

Learning and practicing exercises to prevent carpal tunnel are much easier than treating the disorder once it happens. Other methods you can quickly use also exist that will help minimize your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or related repetitive stress injuries.

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    What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

    Carpal tunnel syndrome creates pain in the wrist and hand that can limit someone’s full range-of-motion. The actual carpal tunnel is formed by the bones and tissues in a human wrist. This tunnel protects the median nerve, which allows you to move your fingers and hand.

    When the ligaments and tissues inside the carpal tunnel become inflamed, they press against the median nerve. This can cause either pain that inhibits movement or numbness in the wrist and hand.

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    Risk Factors

    Doing the same hand and wrist motions repeatedly is a major risk factor of carpal tunnel syndrome. Not only typists and other computer-based workers are at special risk of developing these kinds of repetitive stress injuries. Bankers, grocery clerks, cashiers, musicians, mechanics and assembly-line workers all can develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

    Women are more likely to suffer from this painful syndrome than men. Like most diseases, carpal tunnel risk can be increased through genetics; if a relative had this condition you are much more susceptible to developing it.

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    How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel

    Taking breaks from repetitive hand and wrist motions is crucial to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. While taking such breaks, you can do some exercises to prevent carpal tunnel right at your desk or other workspace.

    Try the forearm wrist twist. You can place your left palm onto a wall, making sure your fingers are spread fairly evenly apart. Extend your elbow and then press the arm completely against the surface of the wall. Turn your head to the right for a good stretch. Repeat this exercise a few times, ensuring you cover each hand and each side of your head and neck.

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    More Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Prevention

    Stretching your wrist throughout the day is another essential practice among the available exercises to prevent carpal tunnel. Stop typing or doing the other repetitive activity for a few moments. Clench your hands into fists. Unclench and repeat.

    Another valuable way to stretch your wrist—with the aim of course to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and preserve your full range-of-motion—is to rotate them slowly in circles. This can even be fun, and you might find yourself developing your own dance-like rhythm and pattern as you do this exercise. Even if you’re standing at a grocery checkout stand or bank counter, this can be easily and discreetly done out of view of any customers or watching bosses.

    Regularly stretching your fingers is also an important habit to adopt. Wiggle them around, move them up and down, and stretch them from side to side.

    Don't go too roughly or too rapidly when doing any of these exercises, as you could wind up with a strain, sprain, or even a fracture.

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    References

    “Family Doctor: What is Carpal Tunnel?”

    http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home.html

    “RSI Exercises: Preventing and Healing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & Repetitive Stress Injuries.”

    http://www.will-harris.com/yoga/rsi.html

    “The Electronic Textbook of Hand Surgery: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Exercises”

    http://www.eatonhand.com/hw/ctexercise.htm