Nerve-gliding exercises can help the median nerve move normally through the carpal tunnel and under the ligament at the wrist, according to Mayo Clinic, but carpal tunnel exercises alone cannot repair damage or reduce symptoms. They also cannot substitute for surgery, wrist splints or other behavior modifications.
Carpal tunnel is caused by the compression of the median nerve, reports the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can be reduced or eliminated through a series of exercises, as noted on the Eaton Hand website. The exercises developed by Dr. Housang Seradge recommend extending and stretching both hands and wrists in the front, holding the position for at least five seconds, then straightening the wrists and keeping the fingers relaxed before making a tight fist and bending the wrists down for five seconds. The exercise finishes by straightening and relaxing the fingers again before repeating the exercise 10 times.
However, while some patients report success using exercise to treat, reduce or prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, Mayo Clinic warns that if nerve-gliding exercises are unable to free the nerve, they can irritate, stretch or damage the trapped nerve and worsen symptoms. With that disclaimer, these exercises are recommended for patients with mild to moderate pain and are best when used in conjunction with other treatment options.
If exercises do not help the symptoms and the pain persists, surgery may be needed to repair or free the damaged nerve, as noted on the Eaton Hand website.