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Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Relief
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

Have you ever experienced numbness, pain, or any other unpleasant sensations in your hands or arms that forced you to slow down or take a break from what you were doing?

If so, you may be showing signs of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from your shoulder to your hand, becomes compressed.

Repetitive motions, especially ones repeated on a daily basis, are often the culprit. This is because performing the same movements, over time, may lead to inflammation, causing the following symptoms in the hands and arms:

  • Pain, often occurring at night
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Burning sensations
  • Electric shock feeling
  • Clumsy movements

According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the universe embodies an ever-changing, dynamic balance of two forces, called yin and yang. Yin manifests as night, cold, rest, and femininity. Yang displays itself through daytime, heat, activity, and masculinity. Yin and yang have the ability to transform into one another. It is easy to witness this pattern in everyday, mundane events.

For example, imagine watching an ice cube melt on a hot summer day. As the ice cube dissolves from the rays of the sun, the yang overpowers the yin, creating a small pool of water. It is through these interactions of yin and yang that balance is maintained. The health of the human body is also subject to this universal law.

When repetitive actions lead to symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, this is a perfect illustration of yang activity burning itself out and leading to a yin condition. When there is a stagnation of blood or Qi, or both, there is pain, as espoused by the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Qi is the primordial energy that animates all of life. Sometimes the stagnation responsible for pain is diagnosed as a cold condition. Interestingly, it is people who frequently complain of cold hands who are more vulnerable to showing signs of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Whether you have cold hands or not, there are some easy exercises to help relieve pain and other symptoms. If you are on a computer all day, or if you are engaged in any other repetitious daily activity, consider setting an alarm for every 20 minutes. This will help remind you to change your posture, perform some stretches, or just take a break.

The first exercise is called the prayer stretch. Put the palms of your hand together, press lightly and hold the pose for 30 seconds. Take a break for 10 seconds, then repeat up to four times. In a variation of this pose, you can hold your hands out in front of you as though you were pushing them up against a wall. Hold for 30 seconds, then shake your hands out. Repeat up to four times.

To stretch in the other direction, make your hands into fists and bend your wrist downwards. This can be done for about 30 seconds, and then the wrists should be straightened and the fingers relaxed. Do this up to four times. Another very simple technique is to make a fist, then open it up and fan out your fingers. Do this as many times as feels good.

This last exercise can also help give your neck a good stretch. Take one hand, with the palm-side up, and extend it to your side. If using your left hand, then extend it to your left side. With your arm completely extended at the level of your shoulder, with your palm still facing upwards, point your fingertips downwards. You should feel a good stretch throughout the entire length of your arm. To increase this stretch, gently tilt your ear towards the opposite shoulder. If your left hand is extended, then you will tilt your head to the right.

In addition to treating already existing issues, all of these exercises can be used to help prevent symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome as well. If you are concerned about any symptoms you may have, or if you suspect you are in the process of developing symptoms, contact your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine for an appointment. In the meantime, keep your head up and your shoulders relaxed, but not slouched. Maintaining good posture, whether sitting or standing, can help keep symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome at bay.

Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.