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Gronseth, Gary M.D.
Gary Gronseth, M.D., is vice-chairman and associate professor of neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and a member of the Neurology Now editorial board.
Q Will exercise help my carpal tunnel syndrome?
A Some exercises help and some will probably hurt. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. Often it is caused by repetitive motion injuries that involve frequent bending or pounding of the wrist, so exercises that involve those movements could make the carpal tunnel syndrome worse. Hand grip exercises can also exacerbate the problem because they involve squeezing the hand, and this actually increases the pressure in the carpal tunnel.
Interestingly, there have been several studies that show that two kinds of exercises are beneficial. One type is the median nerve glide, which involves gentle bending and straightening of the fingers without bending or straightening of the wrist. This may help because it moves the median nerve and tendons that go through the carpal tunnel. This helps to relieve swelling and some of the pressure on the nerves because it pumps out fluid from the carpal tunnel.
The only other exercise that has shown to be effective is yoga. One randomized controlled trial showed that yoga (not a specific yoga exercise, just yoga in general) improved some carpal tunnel symptoms, including loss of function.
©2007 American Academy of Neurology
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