Repetitive Strain Injury Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Exercises

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a form of repetitive strain injury (RSI) that affects the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. Simply put, this condition affects the nerve that runs through forefinger and thumb.

Those who suffer from CTS experience pain, numbness and weakness in their hands and wrists when the condition is aggravated. While severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome may require surgery, those with mild to moderate CTS conditions can ward off symptoms and prevent their CTS from worsening by regularly performing a few basic exercises.

In fact, research has proven that two-thirds of CTS patients who used specific exercises successfully avoided the need for surgery. Because CTS is a repetitive stress injury, it develops over a long period time. As a result, if you start to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, begin incorporating these exercises into your daily routine immediately.

Warm-Up Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

One of the best ways to ward off the symptoms of CTS is to make sure that your wrists and hands are warmed up and ready to work before you begin an endeavor that will last for an extended period of time. If work, sports or playing an instrument is the primary cause of your CTS, perform the following exercises for about five to 10 minutes before your practice to warm up your wrists and prevent irritating this condition.

The Wrist Flexing Exercise

Here are the steps for the wrist flex exercise for CTS:

  1. Start by standing straight with both arms extended out directly in front of you, palms facing the ground.
  2. Extend your hands upwards so that your fingers point to the ceiling and the back of your hand faces your face.
  3. Tensing your arms, flex your hands as far back as possible to get the maximum stretch in your wrist.
  4. Hold the flex for five to 10 counts.
  5. At the end of the count, slowly return your hands to the starting position, allowing both your hands and wrist to relax.
  6. Repeat this exercise seven to 10 times.

During each rep of this exercise, you will feel a mild to intense stretching sensation on the bottom of your wrist and throughout your underarm.

The Fist Exercise

Follow the wrist flex with this fist exercise:

  1. Start the same way you started the wrist flex: both arms extended out directly in front of you, palms facing the ground.
  2. Make both of your hands into stiff fists.
  3. With your hands in fists, bend your wrists downwards so that your knuckles face the ground.
  4. Hold this position for five to 10 counts.
  5. At the end of the count, lift your wrists back to their starting position and let go of the fists so that you return to the relaxed starting position.
  6. Hold the relaxed position for five counts.
  7. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times.

During each rep of the fist exercise, you will experience a sensation that ranges from discomfort to pain throughout the top of the wrist and the forearms. As with the wrist flex, the more and more you practice these exercises, the less pain they will cause you.

After finishing both of these exercises, let your arms hang by your sides completely relaxed. Softly shake them for about 10 seconds before you begin the task at hand.

Full Body RSI Exercises for CTS

While carpal tunnel syndrome is marked by pain and/or loss of sensation in the wrists and fingers, this condition can be aggravated by poor posture sustained for extended periods of time (i.e. when you sit at your desk typing for eight hours each day). As a result, take time out of each work day (maybe on your lunch break) to do the following series of exercises that help promote better posture while increasing your circulation:

  • Back Stretch: Sitting with your feet firmly on the floor (about hip-width apart), bend over and plant your hands on the ground so that your upper body rests on your thighs. Hold for about 10 counts then sit up. This stretches out your entire back.
  • Finger Stretch: Extend your arms out in front of you with your palms facing down. Spread your fingers as far apart as possible and hold the position for about 10 counts. This stretches the fingers and palms.
  • Knee Kiss: Sitting, pull one leg into to your chest so that the knee touches your chin. Hold it strongly for about five counts. Repeat with the other leg. This stretches out your lower back.
  • Neck Stretch: Slowly tilt your head to the right and then the left. This stretches out both the shoulders and neck.
  • Pec Stretch: Hold your hands behind your head with your elbows extended out to the sides. Push your elbows as far back as you can for about 10 counts and then relax them. This stretches the front of your chest.
  • Reach Over: Extend your right arm out in front of you and grab your right elbow with your left hand. Slowly pull your right arm into your chest until you hit your limit. Hold this position for about 10 counts. Repeat with the opposite arm. This stretches the shoulder and middle back.
  • Side Stretch: Entwine your fingers and flip your palms outwards so that they face away from you. Raise your arms over your heat and keep them stiff and straight. Slowly bend from the waist to the right as far as you can and hold for about 10 counts. Repeat on the left side. This stretches out the lat muscles and your ribs.
  • Shoulder Roll: In a circular motion, roll your shoulders forwards 10 times and backwards 10 times. This loosens up your shoulder and neck muscles.
  • Toe Touch: Sitting with your feet firmly on the floor (about hip width apart), hold your arms out to the sides, parallel to the ground. Then, take your right arm and touch your left toe, looking at your left hand extended into the air above you. Hold for five to 10 counts. Repeat with the left arm. This stretches your shoulders and upper back.

Those with more serious cases of CTS may experience some pain throughout all of these exercises as the nerve in their wrists is especially compressed. The key is to work through any pain or discomfort to relieve this compression. Over time as you continue to practice these exercises, you should experience less pain.


American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (2007). Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Exercises (2007). Retrieved June 27, 2007 from:

Ergonomic Resource Center (2007). Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (2007). Retrieved June 27, 2007 from: