Finding relief from the wrist pain of carpal tunnel syndrome isn't just a personal matter; it's an economic issue. Not only does carpal tunnel syndrome lead to sore wrists and hands, and sudden, sharp shots of pain up the forearm, it also tanks productivity at work and – because of difficulties grasping and holding – increases the risk of dropping heavy objects. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor says carpal tunnel syndrome is the cause of nearly half of all missed work time. Fortunately, some simple carpal tunnel exercises can help.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

“There are numerous causes of [carpal tunnel syndrome], however, and several conditions imitate it,” says Eric Matteson, MD, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Causes range from injuries or arthritis to chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, to temporary conditions, such as pregnancy. So how can you tell if you are developing it?

At first, you may feel your fingers and hands are weak, numb, tingling or burning. That’s when you need to start treating the symptoms to keep carpal tunnel syndrome from progressing and becoming a debilitating problem that requires surgery.

What To Do If You Have Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

Carpal tunnel relief is possible. “If you have hand or wrist pain and numbness, see your doctor to find out the true cause and evaluate treatment options,” says Dr. Matteson. If it turns out carpal tunnel syndrome is the likely cause, your doctor may have you wear a splint, take regular breaks to rest your hand, give you a shot of cortisone in the wrist, or advise you to use a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to relieve the swelling and pain.

If your hand and wrist get sore after using a computer mouse, set an alarm on your computer to go off every 15 minutes as a reminder to lift your hand off the mouse, wiggle your fingers yourself and stretch your hand muscles. Also, try a few hand exercises to improve blood flow to the wrist and hand.

Carpal Tunnel Exercises

1. Make a fist. Slide your fingers upward until they are pointing up straight. Repeat five to 10 times.

2. Make a fist. Release your hand and fan out your fingers, stretching them as far as you can. Repeat five to 10 times.