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The Top 5 Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A doctor breaks down how you can relieve symptoms through exercising and stretching.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

If you deal with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), you know how debilitating and frustrating this neurological disorder can be. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, this condition is pretty common. It typically arises from a combination of things that add pressure to the tendons and median nerve in your carpal tunnel.

We chatted with an expert who shares exactly how you can relieve some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel through exercising and stretching. Keep reading to learn all about the top five exercises for carpal tunnel, and for more, don't miss 5 Best Mobility Exercises To Boost Your Range of Motion After 50.

What is carpal tunnel and what causes it?

carpal tunnel

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM, the Director of Medical Content & Education at Ro and a member of our Medical Expert Board explains, "The carpal tunnel is a small passageway through the bones and ligaments of the wrist that tendons and the median nerve go through to get from your forearm to your hand."

Carpal tunnel syndrome is classified as a medical condition that happens when your median nerve, which passes through the carpal tunnel, becomes tight. This can lead to a tingling sensation, numbness, and weakness in your fingers. Sometimes, it can also result in pain or make it more challenging for you to use your hand.

"There are lots of possible causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, including doing repetitive movements (like typing, sewing, or writing), using vibrating tools, sleeping in a strange position, injury, arthritis, space-occupying lesions (such as a cyst growing in the carpal tunnel), and more," Dr. Bohl adds.

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What are the best exercises for carpal tunnel?

The good news is that, sometimes, you can resolve carpal tunnel syndrome after stopping the activity that aggravates it. Surgery is also an option. In addition, there are certain exercises and stretches you can work into your routine that may help relieve the symptoms. However, Dr. Bohl points out, "They won't necessarily work for everybody, and, in some cases, they can worsen symptoms."

Here are Dr. Bohl's top five exercises for carpal tunnel:

Wrist extension

For the wrist extension, you'll hold the hand with carpal tunnel in front of your body, and bend at the wrist as if you're making a "stop sign" gesture, Dr. Bohl says. Your other non-affected hand should gently pull that hand back so that you feel a solid stretch. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise a few times daily.

Wrist flexion

Hold your hand with carpal tunnel in front of your body once again. This time, your palm should be facing down. Bend your wrist so that your fingers point toward the floor. Your other hand should lightly pull the affected hand back so that you feel a solid stretch. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise a few times daily.

Reverse wrist curls

This exercise will require you to hold a light weight in your hand. Place your forearm on a table or sturdy surface so that your hand's over the edge of it. Allow the weight to pull your hand toward the floor. Make sure your forearm stays in its place as you bend your wrist to bring the weight back up before lowering it down. Perform three sets of eight to 12 reps.


This exercise is quite simple. "Simply shake the hands out in the air as if you're trying to dry them off. This can sometimes be a quick way to get relief from the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome," Dr. Bohl says.

Nerve- and tendon-gliding exercises

Last but not least, Dr. Bohl explains that there are also "nerve- and tendon-gliding exercises" that can boost your mobility, but it's a smart move to consult with an occupational therapist to learn how you can properly perform them.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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