Exercises and Stretches to Manage Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Are you experiencing persistent wrist pain or numbness that just won’t go away? One of the most common complaints for hand and wrist pain is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition that affects the hand and wrist due to compression of the median nerve. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the most common focal mononeuropathy with a prevalence of nearly 50 individuals to every 1,000. If left unaddressed, CTS can significantly impact daily activities. However, there’s hope! With targeted exercises and stretches from a trusted physical therapy or occupational therapy team, you can get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome pain and discomfort to a manageable level. For many, physical therapy treatment or occupational therapy treatment can help restore use of the hand, wrist, and arm without the need for surgery, and is a cost effective and less intensive option. Before beginning any type of stretching or exercise routine, you should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. Take a look at some beneficial exercises and stretches to help manage carpal tunnel syndrome.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve in the compartment between the wrist bones and the ligament that runs across them. This compression leads to various symptoms like tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain, most often felt in the palm, wrist, and when bending and flexing the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. The carpal tunnel is a small, narrow passageway that protects the median nerve and the tendons that make your fingers bend and extend. There are many things that could lead to one developing carpal tunnel syndrome including overuse, injury, arthritis, and other contributing factors which may cause the carpal tunnel to narrow. At the same time, the tendons and nerves swell, putting more pressure on the nerve. This pressure can cause pain and/or weakness in the wrist and hand, as well as numbness or tingling in the fingers. Over time, this increased pressure can lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

The Importance of Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In most patients, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome worsens over time, due largely to the fact that it’s often impossible to completely avoid motion in the affected areas or to completely relax and release the median nerve for extended periods of time to allow for rest and healing. Over time, untreated Carpal Tunnel syndrome can lead to loss of sensation in the fingers and weakness in the hand and wrist. Physical or occupational therapy can help reduce the symptoms of carpal tunnel and manage this painful condition. Physical therapy or occupational offers a non-invasive approach to managing CTS. It not only targets the symptoms but also empowers individuals to take an active role in their recovery and maintain hand and wrist health in the long term. Physical therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome focuses on exercises, stretches, and techniques to alleviate symptoms and improve hand and wrist function without resorting to surgery and medications. We prioritize hand and wrist health. Our physical therapy or occupational therapy programs aim to alleviate discomfort, improve flexibility, and prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from interfering with your lifestyle. Our physical therapists work with patients to tailor treatment plans to each individual’s specific needs and goals. We’ll assess the severity of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms and design a unique treatment program accordingly.

Effective Hand and Wrist Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Management

Engaging in specific hand and wrist exercises can alleviate symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by relieving pressure on the median nerve. Here are a few effective stretches that can be beneficial for managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms.

Wrist Flexor Stretch

  • Extend one arm in front of you with your palm facing up.
  • With the opposite hand, gently press the palm downward until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm. This movement should be slow — do not continue to press if you feel pain.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Wrist Extensor Stretch

  • Extend one arm in front of you with your palm facing down.
  • With the opposite hand, gently press the palm downward until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Median Nerve Gliding

  • Begin standing with your shoulders straight and with your hands in a neutral position at both sides.
  • Gently bend the wrist of one hand up, extending your fingers out from your side.
  • Raise the arm with the bent wrist out and up until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your wrist and forearm. Stop once you feel a stretch.
  • Let your wrist relax to its neutral position, keeping your arm extended as high as it was able to stretch from your side.
  • With your arm still extended, slowly bend your head the opposite direction until you feel a stretch.
  • Then, tilt your head toward the arm and at the same time, bend your wrist once more as it was in the beginning.
  • Repeat this movement for 10-15 repetitions, the switch arms.

Finger Flexor Stretch

  • Extend your arm and bend your wrist upward.
  • Use the opposite hand to apply gentle pressure to pull each of your fingers towards your body. This should be a very light movement. Stop if you feel any pain.
  • Hold each finger for 10-15 seconds, then switch hands.

Hand and Wrist Strengthening Exercise

  • Squeezing a stress ball or using a therapy putty can help improve hand and wrist strength over time.

Some of these exercises might be difficult at first, but they shouldn’t cause pain. Remember to take your time, and if engaging in exercises like these hurt, stop and talk to your healthcare provider.

Taking Proactive Steps: Incorporating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Prevention Techniques

Regularly practicing these exercises not only aids in managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but also helps prevent its onset. By making these stretches a part of your daily routine, you may noticeably decrease Carpal Tunnel Syndrome discomfort on your own. There are several things you can do to also manage the risks for developing carpal tunnel syndrome including:

  • Maintain proper posture while working.
  • Take regular breaks throughout your work day to stretch and rest your hands and wrists.
  • Use ergonomic equipment like an ergonomic keyboard and wrist-friendly mouse to reduce additional strain on your wrists.
  • Seek professional advice from a physical therapist for personalized guidance to assess your specific needs and take a proactive step toward maintaining hand and wrist health.

Take Control Of Hand and Wrist Health with Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy

Don’t let Carpal Tunnel Syndrome limit your daily activities. By incorporating these exercises and stretches into your routine, you can effectively manage CTS and improve hand and wrist health. Our experienced physical therapists are dedicated to providing comprehensive care for CTS and various other musculoskeletal conditions. Take the first step towards relief today. Alleviate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome discomfort and enhance hand and wrist functionality. Request an appointment at a nearby physical therapy clinic today!


  1. Joshi, Aditya, et al. “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Pathophysiology and Comprehensive Guidelines for Clinical Evaluation and Treatment.” Cureus, vol. 14, no. 7, July 2022,
  2. Sevy, Justin O., and Matthew Varacallo. “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.” PubMed, StatPearls Publishing, 2020,