6 Carpal Tunnel Prevention Tactics
This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on January 12, 2022.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be detrimental to a healthy lifestyle, causing discomfort or sharp pain in the wrist. Our wrists have nerve tunnels running through them, and when these tunnels are pinched or under pressure from inflammation, it can cause some serious wrist and hand pain and you may even start waking up with numb hands. Carpal tunnel prevention is extremely important for everyone, and fortunately, there are a few wrist movements to help prevent carpal tunnel.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Also known as median nerve compression, carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where you feel tightness or numbness on your hand. This numbness is caused by pressure on your median nerve. You might also feel burning or tingling sensations on your palm, thumb, or index finger.
Can carpal tunnel be prevented?
Carpal tunnel can be prevented through a few different exercises, wrist movements, and lifestyle changes.
- Cut out smoking: Smoke can actually interfere with blood flow, making carpal tunnel symptoms even worse.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Additional weight from obesity may slow down how fast the nerves can travel to the hand, increasing lack of physical activity and increasing risks.
- Practice a loose grip: While working with your hands during activities such as writing or painting, try to loosen your grip a bit. If you’re holding something too tightly, you may be contributing to the wrist compression that could be a factor in the carpal tunnel. Instead, perform some wrist exercises while gripping a pen or pencil, such as loosening and gently shaking out the hands, to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Take breaks with your hands: Frequent breaks from repetitive motion and activities such as resting your hands or changing their position can help relieve some of the tension in your wrist, therefore contributing to carpal tunnel prevention. Practice flexing and extending your hands and fingers during these breaks for even more carpal tunnel prevention.
- Use Ergonomic Tools: Using ergonomic tools at your workstation is also a great way to help keep your wrists in a neutral position. If you spend long periods of time at your workstation, with your wrists bent over a keyboard or mouse, this becomes an especially important step to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain.
- Wear a splint: Wearing a wrist splint, especially if you’re going to be bending your wrists for an extended period of time, can be a great way to maintain a neutral wrist position.
How do you stop carpal tunnel from progressing?
Even if you’ve tried preventing carpal tunnel syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome may continue to progress over time, but by taking frequent breaks with your hands, and stretching your hands, you can alleviate some pressure from your wrists. Be sure to avoid sleeping in positions that may bend your wrists or curl them in an awkward position. By sleeping with a splint or even wearing a splint during the day, you are maintaining a neutral position with your wrists for an extended period of time. This neutral wrist position will help the nerves freely flow through the carpal tunnel, so the pain does not progress. An exercise to prevent carpal tunnel symptoms is to rotate your wrists in circles, and flex and extend your palms and fingers. This will help to decrease wrist numbness, tingling, and repetitive stress on your flexor tendons.
Can carpal tunnel be cured naturally?
If your carpal tunnel results from inflammation pinching the carpal tunnel, then applying cold packs to the wrist can help reduce CTS symptoms of pain or inflammation. Visiting a rehabilitation physical therapy clinic to see a physical therapist or occupational therapist can also help teach movement exercises to prevent carpal tunnel. These movement experts can show additional techniques and manually work with the wrist to help pinpoint the exact cause of wrist pain, and show you carpal tunnel prevention techniques and exercises. You can book an appointment at your nearest location for carpal tunnel treatment by clicking here.
Article by: Holly Lookabaugh-Deur, PT, DSc, GCS, CEEAA
Director of Clinical Services at Ivy Rehab Network
Practicing physical therapist, partner and Director of Clinical Services at Ivy Rehab Network with more than 40 years of experience in sports management with young athletes, and is board certified as a geriatric clinical specialist and certified exercise expert for aging adults. Deuer is certified as an aquatic and oncology rehabilitation specialist and serves as adjunct faculty at Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.
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