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Q. I was recently diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Are there any stretches or exercises that I can do to help it?

-James

A. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve that travels down from the neck into the arm and through the wrist becomes pinched and inflamed. Some common symptoms include numbness, tingling, trouble with fine motor control, and a loss of grip and pinch strength. Fortunately many cases of CTS can be resolved without the need to go under the knife. Here are some ways that you can manage this condition.

  1. Rest and ice: Since CTS is primarily an inflammatory condition resolving the inflammation becomes extremely important. Giving the wrist a break from the activity that caused the problem (usually typing or something similar) will keep inflammation from recurring and ice will help to bring down the current swelling.

  2. Carpal Tunnel Splint: A splint which is usually worn at night keeps the wrist in a position that puts the least amount of stress on the median nerve. These can really make a big difference. You should be able to get one from your healthcare practitioner or a pharmacy.

  3. Exercises/Stretches: For each of these hold 5-10 seconds, and do 5-10 reps several times a day.

-Keep the big knuckles of the hand (the ones that attach your fingers to your palm) straight and bend your fingers and thumb, then extend your fingers as wide as you can.

-Make a tight fist then open your palm as wide as it can go.

-Bend hand downward as far as possible, then upward.

-Place forearm and whole hand on table-- elbow bent 90°, palm flat on tabletop. Rotate the wrist and forearm so the back of hand is now flat on tabletop.

-Bring your right ear as close as you can to your right shoulder and hold for 5 seconds. Reverse instructions for the other side.

-Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, then squeeze the shoulder blades back and downwards, then roll them forward. Do the whole rotation slowly and reverse the direction.

-Stand in a doorway and rest your forearms on the door frame, keeping your shoulders at a 90-degree angle. Lean forward until a stretch is felt in the chest muscles. Hold 20 seconds.

4. Make sure your workstation is ergonomically correct. This is a big topic and probably warrants an entire column. If you are able have someone come and evaluate your workstation or ask your Dr. what you need to do. I'll cover this more soon.

5. Visit a chiropractor: Several studies have shown that chiropractic care for CTS can resolve the issues associated with the condition without the use of drugs or surgery. A chiropractor can treat the joints and muscles involved in the neck, shoulder, elbow, and wrist and also offer advice on how further exercises and stretches as well as workplace improvements. Whatever you decide to do make sure you visit your healthcare professional soon, as CTS is a serious condition that you do not want to leave untreated.