Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Recovery

Article by Lucas Rockwood

Do you have wrist pain, numbness, or weakness that runs down into your first three fingers? You might be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and if so, this guide is for you.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common nerve conditions, often caused by repetitive stress and inflammation that impinges the median nerve inside your wrist. Office workers, trades people, hair stylists, and massage therapists are particularly at risk. If you haven’t had a formal diagnosis, there are a couple of simple self-tests in this video that will help you get a clearer picture.

Carpal tunnel syndrome often resolves itself, but you can accelerate the healing process with the self-care tips and corrective exercises in this article. This simple routine works on mobilizing your wrist, strengthening the muscles, and positively stressing the ligaments and tendons of that carpal tunnel region.

Anatomy of the Carpal Tunnel

The carpal tunnel is a narrow, rigid passageway of bones and ligaments at the base of your hand. The median nerve, which controls sensation in your thumb, index, middle, and part of your ring finger, and several tendons, run through the carpal tunnel.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed, leading to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness in your hand and fingers.

Take a Test

Here we have two corrective exercises designed to take your hip through its full range of motion and get your synovial fluids moving, and then you’ll learn one pose to build strength. Only go as far you can pain-free and scale back as needed to find a comfortable place for your hips to exercise.

Phalen’s Test

This self-test places pressure on the median nerve that runs down your arm, through your carpal tunnel. If it’s impinged, you’ll likely feel pain in and around your wrist, down into your thumb, index, middle finger, and maybe even part of your ring finger.

  • Flex and press your wrists together in front of you with a five out of 10 intensity
  • Apply a little pressure, without jamming
  • Hold for a few seconds and notice how your wrists and fingers feel

Tinel’s Sign

CTS often affects your dominant hand more than the other. So, in this test you’ll be tapping the nerve to see if you feel any numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in your hand.

  • Place your dominant hand flat on a table, palm facing upwards
  • Using two fingers, tap your flat wrist a few times with a five out of 10 intensity

Try These Pain Relief Tips

Experiment with posture

There are lots of different ergonomic keyboards and tools available, so try playing around with a different work setup. Mixing things up, so you’re not in the same position each day, will help you avoid repetitive strain.

Sleep in a splint

Use a splint to support your wrist, especially at bedtime during the first two weeks of healing. Often as we sleep, we unconsciously curl up and put our wrist in a funny position under our pillow. Try wearing it for a two to three hours during the day too, if possible. Your wrist is designed to move through lots of ranges of motion, so it’s good to give it a break.

Be mindful of medication

If you’re offered a cortisone shot to manage your symptoms, be aware that while it might get rid of the pain, it won’t help the underlying problem. Meanwhile, surgery should always be a last resort. Explore all other healing options beforehand – CTS can be painful and disruptive, but good self-care can help most people to get their symptoms under control within weeks.

Download PDF pose chart

Correctives Exercises

Please be careful with these self-care exercises. If your pain level is at a seven out of ten or higher before you even start, skip them, and see a doctor.

Wrist Flexion, Extension & Circumduction

  • Place your forearm down on a table, palm flat
  • Brace your forearm from above with your opposite hand
  • Extend your wrist upwards, repeat three times
  • Flip your arm palm up, flex your wrist three times
  • Lift your arm, brace your forearm from underneath, paint three clockwise circles (circumduction) with your hand
  • Repeat counterclockwise
  • Repeat the process on your other wrist, to keep your body balanced
  • Within a couple of weeks, as your pain reduces, try practicing this exercise holding a gentle weight – a can of soup or beans is perfect

Wrist Traction

  • Wrap a belt or strap around your wrist and pull it through the gap between your ring finger and middle finger (if you don’t have a belt or strap, place your thumb and forefinger either side of the top of your wrist)
  • Keeping your wrist as straight as possible, place both elbows on a table, and gently pull at the belt to pull your wrist apart with about a five out of 10 intensity
  • Stay within a moderate pain range throughout this exercise – no more than three or four out of 10
  • Hold for a slow count of five
  • Release, switch sides

Wrist Loading

  • Spread your fingers on a table in front of you, face your wrists forward
  • Stand up and take your bodyweight into your wrists, as if you’re doing a half-pushup
  • Hold for the count of five
  • Sit down, release, and shake out your hands
  • Repeat three to five times

TIP: Your first finger knuckles may rise during this pose, try to press them down, and do your best to keep your fingers spread throughout.

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