Researchers: Aerobic Exercise Brings Improvement in Carpal TunnelSyndrome

Aerobic exercise might be good for our hands as well as our hearts, say researchers looking into the connection between exercise and carpal tunnel syndrome.

We know it''s good for our hearts, but did you know that aerobic exercise can also improve carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)?

A 10-month aerobic exercise program "significantly" improved nerve function and reduced hand symptoms in patients with CTS, according to a new study led by Dr. Peter A. Nathan of Portland Hand Surgery and Rehabilitiation Center, Portland, Ore. The results of the study are published in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The study examined the results of 30 patients, who participated in the professionally supervised, three-times-weekly exercise program. All had hand symptoms of CTS, and tests taken at the beginning of the study confirmed slowed conduction of electrical impulses in the median nerve supplying the hand.

As patients lost weight and improved their physical fitness, their median nerve function improved. Repeat testing showed that nerve electrical conduction improved for patients who reduced their body fat and improved their oxygen-consumption capacity.

According to Nathan and team, exercise improved other CTS symptoms as well, including pain, tightness and clumsiness of the hand.

According to the researchers, the new results suggest that exercising to improve overall fitness may somehow improve hand function in patients with CTS. Increased physical fitness and reduced body fat lead to improved blood circulation and oxygen delivery to tissues, which may improve median nerve function.

In cases of CTS, swelling in the wrist puts pressure on the median nerve, resulting in symptoms that affect the hands. Specific symptoms include numbness, tingling and nocturnal awakening. Nonspecific symptoms include pain, tightness and clumsiness. Previous studies have shown that many CTS patients are overweight and/or physically inactive, suggesting a possible link between CTS and physical fitness.

by Sandy Smith

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