March 5, 2004, Newsletter Issue #176: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Tip of the Week

So what do you do about it? Traditionally, it`s been months of splints, cortisone shots and even surgeries--basically anything that lessens the pain. But conventional treatment to cure CTS is not the best course of action. It`s better to take action ahead of time so that you don`t get it in the first place. And even if you do already suffer from it, a trip to the doctor`s office might not be your best first option.

There are many causes for CTS. However, by far the most common is overuse. But keeping your body`s muscles in balance can stave off many overuse injuries, and almost nowhere on the body are you as likely to become out of balance than in the forearm. The reason is that you are constantly grabbing or gripping things, which work the flexor muscles. But unless you spend a lot of time playing in a sandbox, you probably rarely use your forearm extensor muscles. Muscles that are out of balance are more easily overused, even during relatively simple tasks like typing.

Flexor/extensor balance is one of the rehabilitation strategies you will be given. But you don`t have to be injured to start with this, and chances are if you were in balance to begin with you`d have never come down with CTS in the first place. But whether you have had it or not, these exercises will keep your forearm muscles in balance and help keep you from getting CTS, or even re-irritating it. They should be standard fare everybody, but especially for those who do a lot of gripping or typing.

Finger extensions (or "stars," as some of our clients have called them) Probably the simplest exercise you`ll ever do. Simply open your hand as wide as you can, stretching out the fingers as much as possible. Then close your hand in a fist. Repeat. Start with sets of 100 and build up until you can go on forever without getting pumped. You can do this exercise as much as you want. For added resistance, stick your hand in the sand.

Reverse forearm curls Gripping a dumbbell, lay your lower part of your forearm on a bench in front of you, palm facing the floor. Start motion with the back of your hand parallel with your forearm. Raise your hand up as high as it can go, keeping your forearm flat on the bench. Then lower it to parallel. Repeat. Use enough weight to fail at 15 reps. Do 3 sets, 2 to 3 times per week.

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