Carpal Tunnel – What is it?

Carpal Tunnel is compression on the median nerve. The median nerve is what supplies the hand with feeling and movement. The symptoms include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the thumb and next two or three fingers of one or both hands
  • Numbness or tingling of the palm of the hand
  • Pain extending to the elbow
  • Pain in wrist or hand in one or both hands
  • Problems with fine finger movements (coordination) in one or both hands
  • Wasting away of the muscle under the thumb (in advanced or long-term cases)
  • Weak grip or difficulty carrying bags (a common complaint)
  • Weakness in one or both hands

What causes Carpal Tunnel?

Overuse: too much repetitive movement or joint impact, Repetitive Stress Injury.


  • Sewing
  • Typing
  • Assembly line work
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Use of tools (especially hand tools or tools that vibrate)
  • Sports such as racquetball or handball
  • Playing some musical instruments

The condition occurs most often in people 30 to 60 years old, and is more common in women than men.

Treatment for Carpal Tunnel

Rest & Hand Exercises

Injury: Wrist fractures, strains & sprains

Please see below for helpful exercises for these types of injuries.

Wrist pain & Arthritis

How Can Contrast Baths Help My Hand Arthritis Pain?

Contrast baths can help decrease swelling, stiffness/pain, increase movement and improve circulation. Warm water dilates, or opens up the blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow. Cold water constricts blood vessels, or makes them smaller. By alternating warm and cold water a pumping action is created to move fluid out. People with arthritis in their hands can benefit greatly from the use of contrast baths. By using alternating warm and cool water (especially on waking and at the end of the day), hand pain and joint stiffness can be significantly reduced.


  1. Fill one plastic basin or sink with warm water (100-105 F).
  2. Fill second basin or sink with cold water (50-60 F).
  3. Place hands and wrists in warm water for 3 minutes. Open and close the hand or gently squeeze a sponge or washcloth if desired.
  4. Alternate to cold water for one minute.
  5. Return back to warm water for 3 minutes.
  6. Repeat the process for a total of 3 rotations of warm and cold.
  7. End with 3 minutes in warm water.
  8. Perform contrast bath treatments 2 to 5 times a day as needed. Use a thermometer to help monitor water temperature.


Water temperatures should be moderate. Contrast baths are not suitable for clients with open wounds, Raynaud’s or congestive heart failure.

Please stop and consult a licensed physical therapist or medical professional if this contrast bath produces pain or discomfort.

Gentle Gliding Exercises for Your Flexor Tendons

Nine tendons pass through the carpal tunnel. Four of the nine tendons bend the tips of the fingers (flexor digitorum profundus). Another four of the nine tendons bend the middle joints of the finger (flexor digitorum superficialis), and the ninth tendon bends the thumb tip (flexor pollicus longus). The purpose of the below pictured exercises are to glide the tendons gently through the carpal tunnel to minimize microscopic adhesions, reduce congestion, and to improve lubrication in the tendons without causing pain.

Begin these with your fingers straight, and then make a hook fist. Then return your fingers to the straight-hand position. Proceed by making a straight fist and then return your hand, once again, to the straight hand position. Then complete a full fist motion and finish in the straight hand position. Hold these positions for 5-10 seconds. These gliding exercises can be performed three to five times per day, five to ten cycles.

Please stop and consult a licensed physical therapist or medical professional if these exercises produce pain or discomfort.

For advanced exercises to increase function and strength contact Peak Physical Therapy for a free assessment and exercise advancement program!

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