There are numerous articles/videos on the internet talking about exercises that supposedly help with/prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Examples:





Is there any scientific basis for the effectiveness of these exercises?

  • I don't want to sound respectless, but have you done any kind of research? Like a search on Scholar.Google.com?
    – Elmy
    Apr 18, 2019 at 10:39

1 Answer 1


The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is wrist overuse:

Work-related activities that require a high degree of repetition and force or use of hand-operated vibratory tools significantly increase the risk of CTS. A large prospective cohort study found that forceful hand exertion was the most important factor in the development of CTS in workers. Additional risk factors include family history and a personal history of diabetes mellitus, obesity, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, and rheumatoid arthritis. (American Family Physician, 2016)

Intuitively, overuse injuries should be relieved by rest (and possibly splinting), not by additional exercise. Anyway, there is some evidence that neural gliding exercises can provide temporary symptoms relief:

Limited evidence is available on the effectiveness of neural gliding. Standard conservative care seems to be the most appropriate option for pain relief, although neural gliding might be a complementary option to accelerate recovery of function. More high-quality research is still necessary... (Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics, 2017)

The actual cause of carpal tunnel syndrome (tingling and pain in the thumb, index and middle finger and the related part of the palm) is the compression of the median nerve. In some cases, exercises may add to the compression, so they may be harmful:

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel and under the transverse carpal ligament at the wrist. Nerve-gliding exercises — one type of carpal tunnel exercise — might help the median nerve move normally, but might worsen symptoms. If a median nerve remains trapped, nerve-gliding exercises can stretch, irritate or injure the nerve. (Mayo Clinic)

So, it depends: carpal tunnel syndrome exercises may be helpful for some people and harmful for others - it's a neurologist or orthopedist who can judge.

  • exercises can work even if intuitively you would think rest is needed. The exercises can strengthen muscles and thus relief stress caused by overly weakened muscles for example. That was certainly the case when I get physio therapy for my RSI.
    – jwenting
    Jan 7, 2020 at 8:03
  • @jwenting, carpal tunnel syndrome has various causes and underlying conditions in different people, so my point is that exercises may be helpful for some but actually harmful for other people.
    – Jan
    Jan 7, 2020 at 13:00

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