Wrist pain.  Hand pain.  Maybe you’ve felt this condition while sitting at the computer typing out work assessments, during a long session of playing video games, or swiping left or right on a phone or tablet screen repeatedly.  Perhaps you lift weights and experience it in the middle of an intense workout, or while holding heavy construction tools.  Whatever the cause may be, whether it’s from typing for long periods of time, holding a phone for a long time, or holding a jackhammer, the immediate conclusion people think of is a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. 

But what is this syndrome?  Is all wrist pain automatically carpal tunnel syndrome, or is it possibly something else?  

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an entrapment neuropathy.1  Think of a pinch in a hose line caused by stepping on it, and you can visualize a similar compression of the nerve as it travels down through the wrist and into the hand.  The nerve, in particular, known as the median nerve, travels through a bony area in the wrist called – you guessed it – the carpal tunnel.  

The carpal tunnel itself is a narrow passageway inside your wrist surrounded by bones and ligaments - it’s an actual tunnel for the nerve!  Compression, or pinching, of the median nerve, can create symptoms including numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand, wrist, and arm.2 


Carpal tunnel is the most common of neuropathies, or nerve conditions, with over 90% of neuropathic cases being from carpal tunnel compression.1

Carpal tunnel can be caused by a variety of circumstances and conditions as well.  CTS is more likely to occur in people who hold vibrating tools or work in an assembly line, engage in work that requires repetitive flexing of the wrist such as typing,  take certain medications, have inflammatory conditions, or have poor wrist and hand ergonomics.2  


What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

The most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include genetic predisposition, history of repetitive wrist movements such as typing, or machine work as well as obesity, autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy.1  However, repetitive motions are a high-risk factor in developing carpal tunnel symptoms due to the repetitive activities inflaming the tendons that run through the carpal tunnel.  This inflammation can lead to compression of the median nerve.3

Symptoms usually start gradually, in one or both hands during the night, with frequent numbness or tingling in the fingers.4  Some people report their hands and fingers even feel useless, clumsy, and unresponsive or even feel swollen, although little or no swelling is apparent!

Unfortunately, many cases of the wrist and forearm pain are automatically diagnosed as CTS without truly examining all possible causes of the pain, or even confirming if the painful condition is truly CTS.

The million-dollar question: Is every hand and wrist issue created by an issue with the nerve inside the carpal tunnel?  The short answer: no!

What can you do if you have wrist and hand pain? 

Your first line of defense is a physical examination of the hands, arms, shoulders, and neck by your trained chiropractor.  They can help determine if the person’s complaints are related to daily activities, such as overuse or poor ergonomics, or due to an underlying disorder such as carpal tunnel or something else.

Many cases of carpal tunnel can be treated conservatively or without surgical intervention.  Splinting, changing your daily routine, chiropractic care, soft tissue work, and other forms of treatment exist that safely improve and resolve a painful wrist condition.4

In the meantime, if you’re suffering from wrist and hand pain and you’re waiting for your next doctor’s appointment, here are some basic, easy stretches you can do on your own.  Remember, these are a method of prevention, not treatment for any wrist or forearm condition. 

Perform each stretch to tolerance (meaning, don’t hurt yourself!) for two sets, with 15-second holds on each arm. If you are holding your breath or making a pain face, you’re doing too much!

Wrist Pronator Stretch

  • Begin standing with your arm straightened in front of you at chest level, palm facing down.

  • Flex arm and stretch fingers down and back with the opposite hand. 

  • Straighten arm while keeping tension on fingers. 

  • Rotate arm by twisting fingers inward. 

4- Way Wrist Stretch

This is a great series of stretches for wrist pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. This series of wrist stretches can be done anywhere and requires no equipment. These can be used before an Olympic lifting session or just at your desk to get rid of that numbness and tingling in your hand and fingers. Give this a try and let me know if it helps.

Did you have fun with those stretches?  Did they cause any discomfort, or did it feel good to stretch those hand and forearm muscles?

Keep in mind, there are other conditions that can affect the wrist, forearm, and elbow, and if you are having pain besides carpal tunnel and pronator teres muscles.  We only addressed two common causes here.  Your local chiropractor is well-versed in extremity conditions that can create discomfort and affect your ability to work and play.  


  1. Sevy, J.O., and Varacallo, M. (2020). Carpal tunnel syndrome. StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing; Treasure Island (FL): Mar.

  2. “Carpal tunnel syndrome.” MayoClinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20355603.

  3. Mooar PA, et al. Management of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2018 Mar 15;26(6):e128-e130.

  4. “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated April 2020. Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome-Fact-sheet

  5. Dididze, M., Tafti, D., and Sherman, A.I. (2020). Carpal tunnel syndrome. StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing; Treasure Island (FL): May.

Dr. Andrew  Cuiffo

Dr. Andrew Cuiffo


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