Simple Hand Exercises You Can Do Every Day to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
These prevention tips and exercises may help you avoid developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is surprisingly common—more than 8 million people in the United States suffer from it every year.
While it's usually associated with people who type on a computer as a significant part of their job or who play video games for extended periods of time, any excessive hand movements can cause this condition.
Manual labor, genetic conditions, autoimmune diseases, and more can all be contributing factors.
Here’s what you need to know about carpal tunnel syndrome, how to prevent it, and some hand exercises to help you avoid it.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where your carpal tunnel gets inflamed and begins to put pressure on your median nerve. The carpal tunnel is a tunnel, or a space, in your wrist between several wrist bones, ligaments, and tendons.
The carpal tunnel provides a pathway for nerves to go through your wrist and to your fingers. When the ligaments and other tissues around the nerve get irritated, they can pinch, push on, or even damage the nerve. That’s what makes your fingers numb, tingly, or painful.
Know the signs
The earlier you recognize the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, the easier it will be to heal from it. Signs include:
- Numbness or tingling in your fingers
- Pain in your fingers, wrist, or up your forearm
- Weakness in your hand or fingers that may cause you to drop things or be clumsy with your fingers
5 hand exercises to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome
There are several hand exercises and stretches you can do to help avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’re already suffering from it, these may help alleviate your symptoms.
- Do thumb touches. Take the tip of your index finger and lightly touch it to the tip of your thumb, making an “O” shape. Hold it for a few seconds, then release. Repeat with each finger and on both hands.
- Shake it out. Shake your hands gently, as if your hands are wet and are trying to dry them off. Try to keep your hands and wrists relaxed as you shake them. Imagine that you’re letting go of all the stress and pressure in your fingers.
- Fan out your fingers. Curl your hands into fists, then slowly open them and fan out your fingers. Stretch your fingers as far out and apart as they will comfortably go. Hold them in a fan position for ten seconds, then relax.
- Flex your wrists. Sit down at a table and lay your arm on the table, making sure your hand is hanging over the edge. Slowly, make your hand flat and flex your wrist up so your fingers are all pointing at the ceiling. Hold for five seconds, then release. Then make your hand flat again, and this time, flex your wrist downward so all your fingers are pointing at the floor. Hold for five seconds then release. Repeat with the other hand.
- Count to ten. Hold both hands up in loose fists. Slowly, raise the index finger of one hand, as if you were indicating the number one. Then, raise your middle finger as if you were indicating the number two. Slowly keep raising each finger until all ten fingers on both hands are up. Then, slowly count down from ten, lowering one finger at a time until your hands are in loose fists again.
Other prevention tips
- Don’t flex your hands in extreme positions. If you’re forcing your hands or wrists into positions, they’re not comfortable in, you could be causing damage.
- Use good posture. If possible, get an ergonomic keyboard and mouse if you do a lot of work or gaming on a computer.
- Take breaks. Give your hands a chance to rest every 30 minutes or so if typing, playing a video game, or playing the piano.
As with many other medical conditions, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once you get carpal tunnel syndrome, it can be difficult to get rid of. Whether you’re trying to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, or you already have it, these tips will keep your wrists and hands healthy.
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