Carpal tunnel exercises

Carpal tunnel exercises may relieve the pain and tingling in your fingers, but not if it includes the pinkie.

"I am still struggling with my painful tingling hands. The carpal tunnel surgery was not effective. My doctor suggested that my thyroid is the cause of the painful scar tissue from the operation. Hopefully once that is under control the burning in my fingers will recede."

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This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 3rd May, 2020.


Ergonomics is more than good computer station design. It is the study of designing equipment that is intuitively friendly to your body. No amount of carpal tunnel exercises and good chiropractic is going to cure your carpal tunnel syndrome if you sit with intrinsically poor posture all day.

Note here that the eyes are level with the top of the screen, and your elbows must be LEVEL (or slightly higher) than the keyboard.

Don't slope your keyboard towards you by raising those little legs at the back. It puts your wrists further into extension, stretching the median nerve and wrist flexors.

A small table, roughly the height of your desk, and placed strategically at your mouse elbow, does wonders taking the strain off your whole mouse arm. So your whole forearm from elbow to hand is supported.

There are a variety of "mouse desks", "wrist pads"... that may help if you are having significant trouble. Even a small towel folded under your wrist may help. A chair that is high enough is absolutely vital, so your arms are level, or point slightly downwards... otherwise, tingling in arms.


Carpal tunnel exercises are worth trying before visiting either a surgeon or chiropractor if the tingling excludes the pinkie; then it's definitely not a median nerve problem and we look further for the source of the nerve irritation.

Stand in a comfortable position with feet apart, knees very slightly bent and your arms outstretched, with the hands and wrists in the neutral position.

Now extend your wrists, hold for a second or two. This stretches the wrist flexor muscles, and the median nerve.

Carpal tunnel exercises with wrists extended.


Does holding your wrists in this position (for up to two minutes) cause burning, tingling or a numb sensation over the thumb, index and middle (and sometimes part of the ring) fingers? This is called a Reverse Phalen's manoeuvre, perhaps the most definitive orthopaedic test for Carpal Tunnel syndrome, probably the main cause of tingling hands. CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME ...

Step 1: Hands neutral

Carpal tunnel exercises with hands in neutral position.

Step 2: Wrists extended

Carpal tunnel exercise with wrists again extended.

Step 3: Neutral

Return your hands to the neutral position and make fists.

Return wrists to neutral for carpal tunnel exercises.

Step 4: Make fists

Hold briefly. This contracts both the wrist flexor and extensor muscles.

Make fists for this carpal tunnel exercise.

Step 5: Flex your fists

Now flex your fists. Whilst this position cramps the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, and may also cause tingling if you hold this position, the alternating contraction and relaxation of the tendons in the wrist is healthy, and the movement helps to dissipate any fluid that has built up in the wrists overnight.

Now flex the wrists for another carpal tunnel exercise.

Step 6: Neutral

Then return to the neutral position.

Repeat at least ten times. About one minute.

Return wrists to the neutral position for this carpal tunnel exercise.

If you get no relief from this carpal tunnel exercise, try repeating it (if you have no shoulder pathology such as frozen shoulder or rotator cuff syndrome) with your hands above your head.

The cause of the Carpal tunnel syndrome is often in the neck, being a double crush syndrome. However, this is often also the cause of shoulder pathology, so you may have both shoulder and wrist problems.

You can also roll the wrists inwards (pronation) and outwards (supine). In short, move your arms, that in itself may the reduce your tingling in arms. Even try making windmills with your arm, if you have no shoulder pain.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

Tingling in arms and hands is a very common complaint at the Chiropractic Coalface. One cause is an irritated median nerve in one or more of the following positions:

  • A cervical facet syndrome ...
  • by a first rib subluxation in the neck,
  • by two muscles called the scalenes in the neck,
  • it may be squeezed by the two bellies of the pronator teres muscle in the forearm, and/or
  • in the carpal tunnel itself.

It may also be caused by conditions that cause fluid retention in the arms, such as premenstral tension, pregnancy and pre-eclampsia; and hypothyroidism.

Diagram illustrating how the inter-scalene triangle affects the thoracic outlet syndrome.
Tingling in arms and hands can be caused by the pronator teres muscle.
The carpal tunnel.

"I had CTS in both hands and had them operated on last year. Since the procedures, I have had profound shoulder pain and weakness and an ache in my arm."

- correspondence received at C-H. "

Comment: It is unlikely the surgery caused the shoulder and elbow problems. What is possible though, is that the cause was in the neck, hence the operations on the wrists did not help, and because the cervical spine problem was not addressed, the arm problems began, and would have begun anyway.

Before CTS surgery the neck and Thoracic Outlet should always be examined by a thorough, experienced chiropractor. Do you get otherwise? As with medicine, half tof DCs graduated in the bottom half of the class.

Remember, and this is vital:

True Carpal tunnel syndrome ALWAYS EXCLUDES THE PINKIE.

Carpal tunnel syndrome always excludes the pinkie.

Tingling in arms and hands

Tingling in arms and hands is a complex problem with many potential causes; a well constructed diagnosis is the first step in the solution of your problem. Carpal tunnel exercises can do no harm but by delaying the proper treatment, even they can be labelled iatrogenic illness; doctor caused disease.

Did you feel your were properly examined and questioned by your chiropractor or medical doctor? If not, go elsewhere if you are not getting better, sooner rather than later.


Your chiropractor will, or at least should try to find the cause of the tingling in your arms and hands. Otherwise these carpal tunnel exercises will most likely be no more effective than anti inflammatory medication.

At least the exercise will do no harm as the drugs may.

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