What Are Some Exercises To Strengthen Muscles Weakened By Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

This article gives a brief overview of what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is, how it manifests, and some brief treatments for strengthening the muscles in the area to decrease symptoms.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that arises from the wrist due to repetitive motion. It often affects people who work on the computer, as well as others who do repetitive tasks with their hands, such as builders, plumbers, etc. It is described as tightness in the wrist that leads to numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand. This is incurred by the following: the carpal tunnel is an area in the wrist made up of nine muscle tendons, which surround the Median Nerve, and lies across the carpal (wrist) bones. Laid over the tunnel is a band of tight tissue called the Flexor Retinaculum, which keeps the wrist together. The Median Nerve gives feeling to most of the palm side of the hand. Repeating motions in these muscles causes them to swell and squeeze the nerve. Because of the Flexor Retinaculum, the swelling has no place to go except for in the nerve space, which causes the numbness, tingling, and severe pain into the wrist. Many people with ongoing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome chose to have surgery which cuts and releases the Flexor Retinaculum and allows the area to expand. This means that the tight space is now gone, and any swelling the muscles incur will no longer affect the nerve.

Fortunately, there are some exercises to treat Carpal Tunnel in the early stages to relieve the swelling and strengthen the muscles so the repetitive motion no longer bothers them. Doing these treatments early on when symptoms first arise will likely delay, if not dispel, the need for surgery.

The first basic treatments to parallel exercises are rest and ice. Resting often in-between motions is important to keep the muscles from swelling. While it is often difficult to rest during the job, try to space out your time to give your hands a rest. For example, instead of typing endlessly for hours, take a break every half hour or so, and do other work such as copying, filing, running errands, etc. (This will save on your eyes too!). If you work in manual labor, try to divvy up your jobs so that you aren't using your hands for long periods of time. In addition, wrist splints for carpal tunnel are also beneficial, as they place your wrist and hand in a better position to function, thereby decreasing symptoms without restricting motions. In addition, placing ice on your wrists for fifteen minutes after exceedingly long days at work can reduce any swelling that has occurred and thereby reducing symptoms.

Exercising those nine muscles in the carpal tunnel as well as the muscles surrounding the wrist can also be beneficial. However, it is important that you exercise these muscles when thesymptoms of carpal tunnel are the least. If you try to exercise after a long day and the muscles are swollen, the swelling will only increase and make the symptoms worse. In addition, carpal tunnel can cause weakness in the hands, so if you can't grip correctly, the exercises will not be beneficial.

The first exercises are for hand-gripping, such as squeezing a soft ball in your hand (this also relieves stress!). First, do general squeezes, using all the fingers, at three sets of ten repetitions. Then, do squeezes with one finger and thumb at a time. For example, the first finger and thumb at three sets of ten, then the second finger and thumb, etc. These are "pinching" exercises. Next you should get a light hand weight of about two pounds and grip it in your hand. Do three sets of ten reps of turning your hand over to the palm side then back over to the dorsum side. With the hand weight and the palm side of your hand facing the table, so three sets of ten reps of "wrist extensions," or bringing the back of your hand toward you with your arm flat on the table. Next, flip your hand over, and with the weight and the palm side of your hand facing you, do three sets of ten reps of "wrist flexions," or bringing the palm side of your hand toward you with your hand on the table. These basic exercises can strengthen the muscles in and around your carpal tunnel so that they can sustain activity for a longer period of time without swelling. As always, consult your physician immediately when you start experiencing symptoms, and before you begin any strict exercise regime.

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