As an orthopedic hand and wrist surgeon, I have the opportunity to take care of a wide variety of athletes from various realms of competition. Recently, I have noticed a trend among my patients, primarily those who engage in heavy weightlifting and bodybuilding. These individuals, both men and women, appear to be developing carpal tunnel syndrome at an alarming rate.
How to Identify Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
It is clear these athletes are committed to the sport of weight training; however, their bodies are rebelling in a not-so-subtle way with the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome itself is a compression of the median nerve of the wrist (pictured below) and unfortunately, this compression causes numbness, tingling, pain, and a debilitating lack of grip strength and dexterity.
Often, the numbness and tingling that accompanies this syndrome is more pronounced in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and a part of the ring finger. Patients will also present with complaints of episodic or constant night pain, which is a herald sign of significant carpal tunnel syndrome.
Stretches and Exercises to Prevent Wrist Pain
Listed below are several recommendations for all bodybuilders, gym-goers, and weightlifting athletes. These recommendations may help you to avoid the negative effects of carpal tunnel syndrome, which can drastically affect strength, power, and overall athletic performance. These stretches and exercises should be done before and after weight lifting.
- Gliding exercises should be done for five minutes before lifting weights.
- Keep the wrist in a neutral position when lifting weights as much as possible. Avoid hyperflexion and hyperextension of the wrist.
- Stretch all fingers and your wrists before and after lifting weights.
- Place hands and wrist in warm water before going to the gym.
- Perform Nirschl exercises (see video below) in your post-workout stretching routine to assist in avoiding tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), which is also a common injury in the weightlifting community.
- Wear well-padded lifting gloves when lifting weights.
- After you finish lifting, simply flex and extend the wrists.
These suggestions should be helpful in your quest to stay healthy and lift weights, while also preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain in general. I highly recommend lifting weights for individuals of all fitness levels, as this also helps to strengthen your bones, hence decreasing your risk for osteoporosis and osteomalacia. So keep on exercising – exercise is life!