Carpal tunnel syndrome is a frequent and limiting problem.
It often results in surgery eventually.
But fortunately, you can postpone your surgery for years with our treatment plan.
And in this post, I’ll show you exactly how you can treat your carpal tunnel syndrome yourself with 2 exercises and a wrist brace. The brace reduces your nighttime symptoms immediately.
Keep reading for the full treatment plan.
Carpal tunnel treatment plan:
- Wear a brace at night to relieve nighttime symptoms
- Massage your lower arm muscle to relief tightness
- Stretch your forearm muscle to reduce tension
- Train your forearm muscle to improve functionality
Keep reading for the full explanation and detailed description of the exercises (video’s included)
Anatomy of the wrist
The anatomy of your wrist is very complicated.
Your wrist is the connection between your lower arm and your hand.
Your lower arm connects here with several carpal bones.
These bones can move independently from each other, which makes your wrist so flexible.
On both sides of your wrist, muscles, tendons, and ligaments cover these bones.
These are all important for the movements of your wrist and fingers.
On the inner side of your wrist runs a nerve that innervates most of the muscles in your hand. This nerve is called the median nerve.
It runs through the carpal tunnel.
Also, the tendons and veins of your hand run through this tunnel, which is covered by a ligament.
Usually, this tunnel is large enough for the nerve and tendons to pass through.
But there are situations where the space within the tunnel decreases. That increases the pressure on the nerve. The increased forces cause the problem in your hand.
This problem is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are however more things that can cause this problem then you might think.
I’m going to show you all these causes right now. After that, I’ll also tell you what you can do about it yourself.
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes
There are four things that can cause your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
- Tense muscles of your forearm
- Fluid retention
- Narrowing of the carpal tunnel
All these carpal tunnel syndrome causes will increase the pressure on your carpal tunnel and aggregate your symptoms.
Tense muscles of your forearm
The most common cause I see in our practice is stiffening of the muscles in your forearm, which can cause symptoms in your hand in 2 ways.
The first thing is that the tight muscles swell up a little, which makes them more prominent, causing compression in the carpal tunnel.
Your nerve is most vulnerable for this pressure causing your symptoms.
The second thing is that the tight muscles themselves can cause radiation in your hand.
This phenomenon is called referred pain.
Referred pain means that the pain and symptoms that you experience are not caused at the location that you feel them but somewhere else in your body.
Fluid retention is another common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Fluid retention is usually present in pregnant women.
Also, a heart condition can cause you to retain fluid in your body.
And at the place where this liquid is present, it causes compression at that location. Increased pressure is often present in hands and feet. If you have fluid in your hand, it will eventually end up in your wrist, causing carpal tunnel syndrome. After the pregnancy, this fluid often disappears, relieving your symptoms.
Another common cause is being overweight.
When you’re overweight, fat stores everywhere, which means that fat also is stored in your lower arm and wrist. This extra fat occupies space increases pressure in your carpal tunnel.
You also retain more fluid if you are overweight, which also increases the pressure.
Narrowing of the carpal tunnel
The last carpal tunnel syndrome cause is narrowing of the carpal tunnel itself.
There can be several reasons for this.
- Degeneration of the ligament that covers the carpal tunnel at the top causes narrowing of the carpal tunnel.
- Degeneration occurs when you get older, or when you use your arm too often. Overuse causes microtrauma in the ligament. When these traumas recover, scar tissue remains.
- This scar tissue will harden the ligament, which causes compression.
Other causes of degeneration can be diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms
The symptoms that come along with carpal tunnel syndrome are very distinct.
The problem is that you can have other symptoms in your lower arm, wrist, and hand that mimics carpal tunnel syndrome but are something else.
Real carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:
- Radiation in your thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger
- Feeling an electric shock in your wrist and hand
- Difficulty flexing your index finger and middle finger
- Trouble moving your thumb in all directions
- Difficulty holding things
- Difficulty lifting things
Carpal tunnel syndrome does not cause problems with your little finger
It neither causes difficulty with bending your ring finger. If this is something you experience, it’s more likely that the problems originate from your neck.
Also, pain in your lower arm is not a direct result from carpal tunnel syndrome.
When you feel pain or tension in the muscles of your forearm, this can cause the radiating pain in your hand that mimics carpal tunnel syndrome. I have already discussed this.
Therefore technically this is not carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome can be determined by a series of test.
Carpal tunnel syndrome test
There are two carpal tunnel syndrome tests that you can perform yourself to get an indication of whether or not you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
These two tests are both designed to decrease the space of your carpal tunnel.
The first carpal tunnel syndrome test is the Phalen maneuver.
You can perform this maneuver in the following way:
- Place the back of your hands against each other with your fingers facing the ground
- Push both of your elbows downwards
- Hold this position for 20 seconds
If you feel the pain and sensation in your hand increases the test is positive, which can indicate that your carpal tunnel is narrower.
The second carpal tunnel syndrome test is the Tinel test.
Perform the test like this:
- Keep your wrist in a straight position
- Now tap with two fingers on the carpal tunnel
- Continue this for 20 seconds
If you feel a tingling sensation in your hand, the test is considered positive.
A neurologist can perform the last test. What he will test is the conduction capacity of your medial nerve. A reduced size can be a sign of compression or damage of the nerve.
Narrowing of the carpal tunnel can cause a reduced size of the nerve.
Luckily there are a few exercises that you can do to reduce your symptoms.
I’m going to discuss these right now.
Carpal tunnel syndrome home treatment with two exercises
So to treat the carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, we have to reduce the pressure in the carpal tunnel.
There are three ways to do this.
The first and most important thing is to give your lower arm muscles rest. When they get the rest they need, the tension of these muscles will reduce. The reduced pressure will increase the space for the nerve in your carpal tunnel.
Unfortunately for many people, it’s tough to give your arms the rest they need.
That’s why I recommend wearing a wrist brace at first.
When you wear a wrist brace, your wrist will stay in the same position no matter what you do, which will make sure that the muscles in your arm don’t have to do anything. That especially helps with night pain..
Togehter with giving your wrist rest, you can also massage the muscles to reduce the tension.
Now that the muscles get to rest, it is time to start with the two carpal tunnel syndrome exercises that work.
Carpal tunnel syndrome exercise 1: stretching your lower arm muscles
Now that the muscles in your forearm get the rest they need, it’s time to reduce the tension even further.
You can do this with the following exercise:
- Extend your elbow and your wrist
- Grab your fingers with your other hand and extend these as well
- Hold this position for 30 seconds
- Repeat this three times
- Do this several times a day.
You can also find this exercise in the video.
When you perform this exercise, you will feel the stretch in the muscles in your lower arm. You might even experience radiation in your hand at first.
If you continue to do this exercise regularly, you will notice that the stretch in your forearm is decreasing. The radiation in your hand will also reduce.
Now it’s time to start with the second exercise training your muscles.
Carpal tunnel syndrome exercise 2: Increasing the strength in the muscles of your lower arm
To prevent your lower arm muscles from tightening up again, it’s also essential to increase the power of your muscles.
Most of the time these muscles are just not strong enough for the tasks you’re doing
When you don’t address this problem, the tension in your lower arm muscles will be back within weeks.
This way, the radiation in your lower arm will return as well.
So to prevent this from happening, it’s important to increase the strength, so the muscles don’t get overused again.
Overuse is usually the reason for the tension in your muscles.
You can address this by performing the following exercise:
- Place your arm on the table with your hand and wrist over the edge
- Now extend your wrist
- Now let it down again
- Repeat this ten times
- Turn your arm around so that the palm of your hand points to the ceiling
- Now bend your wrist as far as possible and repeat this ten times
You can also find the exercise in this video.
When the activity becomes too easy, you can increase the difficulty by taking a bottle of water or small weight in your hand.
Perform this exercise 2 times a day. You can also increase the number of repetitions if it gets to easy.
When you do these two exercises regularly in most cases, your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms will disappear within weeks.
Unfortunately, sometimes exercising doesn’t help enough.
When that’s the case, you can consider surgery.
Carpal tunnel syndrome surgery
Through carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, the surgeon will cut the ligament covering your carpal tunnel. Cutting the ligament will reduce the pressure on the nerve.
Remember that this will only work when this is the only problem.
If your muscles are causing the problem, surgery is not going to give the result you’re expecting.
That’s why surgery is only a last resort.
After the surgery, you have to keep your hand and arm in a sling for at least a week. After this week, you can slowly use it again.
Full recovery might take a couple of weeks, though.
To aid your recovery, you might want to wear a wrist brace for a few weeks. You can find the best carpal tunnel braces here.
So as you can see, several carpal syndrome treatments can help you solve this problem.
If you have any question left, feel free to send me an e-mail.