Top 5 Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There’s a nerve in the wrist called the median nerve. When this nerve gets compressed (usually due to inflammation or swelling), you get symptoms of numbness in the hand and fingers, and wrist pain. This commonly occurs in pregnancy where there is increased fluid retention, but can also happen with overuse and repetitive strain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can also cause thumb and finger weakness, making it difficult to grasp objects or perform simple tasks. The best cure is prevention, so avoid overusing your wrists. But if you do get symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, avoid any activities that could be aggravating your condition.

CTS treatment is determined by the severity of the condition. Mild cases may be treated with rest, wrist splinting, and if you visit your GP, anti-inflammatory drugs. If you see a physiotherapist at Surrey Physio, we’ll perform electrotherapy such as laser or ultrasound, and we’ll also prescribe exercises. We’ll also guide you on reducing aggravating factors and look at things like workplace ergonomics. If this does not work, then we’ll look to do a steroid injection next to the median nerve, and this can provide very successful results. In more serious cases, surgery may be required to relieve pressure on the median nerve, however our experience is that if you treat the wrist for a few sessions, the pain usually disappears. One of my colleague’s called Peter actually had many successful carpal tunnel surgeries saved when we ran an NHS pilot.

Prevention is the most effective method for avoiding CTS. This includes avoiding activities requiring repetitive hand, wrist, and arm motions. In addition, it is essential to take frequent breaks and stretch the hands and wrists. Wearing a wrist brace can also help alleviate wrist strain.

And the best treatment? In our opinion, exercises.

Let’s look at our top five exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome:

1. Pregnancy Wrist Stretches: Kneel onto your hands and knees, with your palms flat and fingers spread out. Lean your body weight forwards to provide a gentle stretch to the inside of your wrists. Hold for a few seconds, then lift your hands and bend your wrists so that the back of your hands are on the floor and your fingertips face you. Gently lean back to feel a stretch on the outside of your wrists. Hold for a few seconds.

2. Passive Wrist Extension: Use your hand to extend your own wrist. Make sure you keep your wrist relaxed. This is a passive exercise used to improve the mobility of your wrist, and to stretch the forearm muscles.

3. Ice the Wrist: Place an ice bag or pack of frozen peas over the inside of your wrist, or over any swelling. This will help reduce swelling and pain. Wrap the ice bag in a tea towel to make sure its not too cold.

4. Wrist Flexion Band: Rest your hand and wrist on a table. Hold an exercise band, and bend your wrist to create resistance in the band. This is a strengthening exercise for your wrist, forearm and elbow.

5. Heat the Wrist: Place a heat pack or hot water bottle over the inside of your wrist, or the injured area, to stimulate blood flow and reduce inflammation.

If you experience any symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, you should consult a healthcare professional immediately. Diagnosis and treatment at an early stage can help prevent permanent damage to the median nerve.

If you are a therapist and like the exercises and information in this document, please go to and sign up to this amazing exercise prescription software. If you are a patient and need some advice, treatment or a consultation, please go to We provide virtual and face-to-face appointments with our expert team.

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For more advice on carpal tunnel syndrome, check out this page: