Someone holding a sore wrist suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome
Pain Management

Best exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel is a painful condition that can negatively impact daily activities, hobbies, and work duties. It can cause pins and needles and weakness in the hand. Physiotherapy can help resolve the pain through specific relief exercises for carpal tunnel. Read on for a greater understanding of the condition and suggested wrist exercises and hand stretches for carpal tunnel. 

What is carpal tunnel? 

Carpal tunnel is a condition that affects the median nerve in the hand. The median nerve supplies muscle power and sensation to the thumb, index, middle and half the ring finger on the palm side of the hand. The nerve can become compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel (wrist) at the flexor retinaculum. This can then cause pins and needles in the hand. This can eventually lead to numbness and muscle wastage if the compression worsens. Physiopedia is a great resource to discover more about carpal tunnel syndrome if you’re interested.

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel?

  • Pins and needles or tingling in the forearm, thumb, index, middle and half the ring finger
  • Weak thumb and grip strength 
  • Aching pain and/or pins and needles in the hand that can be worse when sleeping 
  • Gripping tasks can bring on symptoms. For example, vibrating tools or playing an instrument. 

The best wrist and hand exercises for carpal tunnel

  • Wear a wrist splint for 6 weeks at night. It is essential that the splint has an aluminium bar running through it to keep the wrist straight
  • Median nerve gliders 20 seconds at a time, 3-4 times daily 
  • Squeeze a rubber ball, hold for 5 seconds, 10 times 3 daily
  • Bend the wrist up and down holding a tin of beans or a 1kg weight, 10-12 times, 3 sets 
  • Bend wrist backwards keeping the elbow straight. Hold for 30 seconds, 3-4 times daily. 

Exercises for prevention

The best way to prevent carpal tunnel would be to avoid using vibrating hand tools, loosen the grip and take frequent short breaks to stretch out the wrist and arm. If the symptoms come on at a desk-related job, getting an ergonomic mouse or assessment may be helpful. Positioning the keyboard at elbow height with a 90-degree angle can help with circulation and reduce risk of developing symptoms. Ensure your desk is set up in the correct position for you, following ergonomic guidelines.

How to get relief from carpal tunnel

Firstly, get assessed by a Chartered Physiotherapist for an accurate diagnosis. This is important as the nerve pain can also become compressed at the elbow or cervical spine (neck) and may not be carpal tunnel. 

  • Wear a wrist splint for 6 weeks, only at night-time
  • Steroid injection to reduce the inflammation of the median nerve and the tendons around it
  • Anti-inflammatory medication from a GP 
  • Physiotherapy specific exercises, see above
  • If all the above fails, surgery can be an option to release the pressure off of the nerve. 

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome? 

There isn’t one cause or activity that causes carpal tunnel. There are, however, a few risk factors that can make someone more prone to developing carpal tunnel. Such as if you are pregnant, overweight, play a musical instrument, work with power tools, or have arthritis. 


Carpal tunnel can negatively impact work, hobbies, and daily activities. It can also disturb sleep and affect mental wellbeing. The best course of action would be firstly to get assessed by a Chartered Physiotherapist as soon as possible. You can book an appointment with us online or fill out our contact form.

Following an assessment and diagnosis, exercises and stretches to relieve carpal tunnel pain can be prescribed. Oftentimes carpal tunnel pain can resolve relatively easily by wearing a splint and doing some simple exercises. The sooner help is sought, the easier and faster the pain will resolve. Book online now to start your recovery.

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