It could be carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition in the wrist or hand caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the spinal cord down through the arm, elbow, wrist, and hand.
“Imagine you are trying to sip water through a clamped straw. Once the water reaches the pinched part, no water can get through,” says Autumn Hanson, DPT, a physical therapist and owner of PERMISSION2MOVE. “The same thing happens when the carpal tunnel narrows or the structures within it bulge.”
This can cause pain, weakness, numbness, tingling or burning sensation in the forearm and hand, most commonly in the thumb, index finger and ring finger, says Dr. Onset is usually gradual. “Many patients experience their first symptoms during sleep: A strange numbness or tingling sensation in the first three fingers that makes them want to put their hand back, after shaking to get it back,” she says. feeling,” she said.
Carpal tunnel can have a number of causes: “Injury to the arm or wrist; Dr. Hanson said. People with jobs or hobbies that require repetitive hand use (such as video players, musicians, hairdressers, or white collar workers) are also at risk.
If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause long-term damage to the nerve. Fortunately, Dr. Hanson says that dilating the carpal tunnel in its earliest stages can prevent more severe symptoms.
The best stretches for carpal tunnel syndrome
Since these stretches target nerves, you’ll want to take a different approach than you would for toning muscles. “It’s best not to stretch,” says Dr. Hanson. “Releasing nerves from stress is best accomplished with a fluid movement, rather than a static hold.”
1. Self-massage forearm
Dr. Hanson recommends starting by massaging the inside of your forearm to understand what’s involved in the muscles, while also bringing blood and nutrients to the tense muscles.
- Relax your forearms on a table or pillow. Turn the palm up and gently massage the muscles of the forearm with the opposite hand for 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Move wrist flexion/extension
This move helps mobilize the median nerve and stretches any tense muscles and tissues around it.
- Start with your elbows bent and hands folded so that your palms are facing your inner forearms and shoulders.
- In a flexible motion, extend your wrists (move your hand in the opposite direction so that the back of your hand is facing the hairy side of your arm) and elbows, slowly straighten your arms for until you start to feel your symptoms, then immediately return. to your starting position.
- Complete four to seven times.
3. The median nerve glides
This stretch helps move the median nerve wherever it might get stuck or compressed. “It’s important to restore nerve gliding to prevent any undue strain as it travels down the arm,” says Dr.
- Start with your arms out to the side, parallel to the floor (like a half-T), with your fingers curled up to the sky.
- Rest your head away from your fingers.
- As you extend your wrists and point your fingers toward the floor, bring your head toward your outstretched arm at the same time. Move your hands and head back and forth in one fluid motion.
- Complete four to five times.
4. Active wrist extension
- With your hands in a prayer position, press them together to work the muscles of your forearms.
- Still pressing your hands, rotate your fingertips toward the floor, then toward the sky.
- Repeat five times.
5. Wrist flexion
“This movement lengthens the wrist extension cords while allowing the wrist flexors to move through their available range of motion,” says Dr.
- With your elbows bent to 90 degrees, place your hands in front of you as if you were carrying a plate.
- With the palm facing up, roll your fingers toward the palm, then arch your wrist toward your forearm as you bring your wrist toward your shoulder.
- Repeat five times.
6. Wrist circle
- With fingers straight and wrist arched back, move your wrist in a circle five times in one direction and then five times in the other direction.
- Then, make a fist with your hand and fingers, and then circle five more times in each direction.
7. Chest Opener
Dr. Hanson notes that opening up the front of the body can release tension in the upper body muscles that surround the median nerve.
- Place the foam roller or rolled up towel on the floor and place your spine above its length, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Bring your fingertips toward the ceiling, feeling the stretch between your shoulder blades.
- Then, separate your hands and bring them toward the floor.
- Repeat five times before letting your arms rest on the floor to feel the stretch in your chest.
The best time to stretch
Stretching can be part of an effective rehabilitation program for carpal tunnel syndrome, but it’s better to be proactive and start stretching as soon as you notice the first symptoms. And, you don’t have to wait for the discomfort to start: These movements can also help prevent it.
“All of these exercises are great if you have a higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome,” says Dr. “It’s much easier to deal with symptoms when you start experiencing them rather than letting them progress.”