EXERCISES AND PREVENTIVE MEASURES
If your carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is still in its early stages, then conservative treatment methods can be very effective. Unfortunately, many patients usually only realise the problem at a later stage. CTS is considered advanced if you’ve experienced symptoms over several months. By then, conservative treatments are only of limited use. The exercises described below will only prove effective if you do them daily, over a longer period (at least one month). For many patients, it can be difficult to keep up this continuity in everyday life. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that many of these exercises – when done consistently – can offer significant relief or even a complete regression of symptoms.
Important preventive measures include:
Evaluate the cause of your CTS. This is typically your usual activities at work, hobbies (e.g., gardening) or sporting activities that put a repetitive strain on the affected hand, leading to CTS. You may be able to reduce your symptoms by making changes to the actions causing it.
When symptoms occur, make sure to rest your hand immediately – don’t continue using it until the symptoms get worse and you can no longer bear the pain.
Your sleeping position can also affect CTS. Patients who lie on their side, or in a position that bends their wrist, can find that their symptoms worsen overnight.
A wrist support can relieve the wrist during intense activities. This can also bring relief at night.
You can take anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs) in the initial stages to ease the irritation and inflammation caused by CTS.
However, without a GP prescription, you should not take these medications for longer than 1-2 weeks. When taken correctly, they are one of my recommended CTS treatments for patients who don’t want to take the surgical route.
Exercises to ease symptoms:
Stretch the wrist: several times a day, stretch by extending and flexing the wrist. Be careful to only stretch to your maximum pain threshold. It’s better to stretch slowly in short periods. You should continue these exercises over several weeks and months, rather than doing short, intensely painful stretches that you’re more likely to stop doing.
Stretch and elongate the region of the elbow and the shoulder joint. The median nerve starts in the neck and runs through your entire arm. Flexibility and mobility in the entire upper region can have a positive effect on CTS.
Night splints for patients with CTS are available from most orthopaedic shops. However, you should only wear these splints at night, as wearing a splint for 24 hours or possibly for several weeks can lead to a stiffening of the wrist.
Massage exercises and fascia massage in the carpal tunnel region and forearm: Patients have reported positive effects when mobilising the fascia and tissue above the carpal tunnel. You can do these exercises yourself, though I recommend that you have an initial consultation with a physiotherapist who specialises in these techniques to show you exactly how to do them.
Training with a rubber ball: You can train the muscles of the inner finger by exercising with a rubber ball (also available in orthopaedic shops). This allows you to move the relevant flexor tendons in the carpal tunnel, encouraging smooth movement and blood circulation.
All these exercises are aimed at mobilising the surrounding tissue and promoting blood circulation. It’s essential to do these exercises consistently and over a longer period. Remember to stay very, very patient.
Dr Georg C. Bézard, Senior Consultant
Währing Private Clinic
Kreuzgasse 17-19, 1180 Vienna
Franz Josef Str. 12, 3430 Tulln
Telephone: +43 (0) 660 3737 936
Practice visits by appointment only