The median nerve runs down through your forearm and into your hand to innervate the muscles of your palm and fingers. The median nerve is especially vulnerable to injury and compression in your wrist, resulting in a condition called "carpel tunnel syndrome." Stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments of your arm that surround the median nerve may help prevent it from getting “pinched” or irritated. Using a stable wall to stretch your arm and median nerve is convenient and effective. Consult with your doctor if you experience chronic symptoms in your hand, wrist or forearm.
The median nerve is one of five main nerves originating from the brachial plexus in your lower neck. It courses down the arm, past the elbow and enters the forearm with the brachial artery. In the forearm, it runs down between the two main bones, the radius and ulna, and enters the wrist through the carpal tunnel, which is formed by the small pebble-like carpal bones. The median nerve is the only nerve that runs through the narrow carpal tunnel, which makes it susceptible to being compressed, according to the book “Clinically Oriented Anatomy.” Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, weakness, tingling and/or numbness in the thumb and fingers, especially the index and middle fingers. You can help prevent or reduce the symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrome by stretching the forearm and wrist.
Stretching your wrist and forearm does not really stretch or lengthen the median nerve or any other nerve, but it helps to stretch muscles, tendons and connective tissue that surround the median nerve. The median nerve can be entrapped in a variety of locations as it courses down from the neck into the hand, and stretching improves the muscles' and ligaments' ability to slide and glide, which reduces the likelihood of nerve entrapment, according to the book “Human Physiology: An Integrated Approach."
To stretch the median nerve, place your open palm against a stable wall, with your arm extended and parallel with the floor. Your fingertips should be extended and pointing away from your body. Next, rotate your trunk away from the wall while keeping your elbow straight and hand in contact with the wall, which should put your shoulder into slight extension and produce a stretching sensation in your elbow and through your forearm. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and then slowly return to your original position. Repeat the stretch between three and five times, and don’t forget about the other side.
Aggressive or hurried stretching can damage muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves, so stretch slowly and with caution. If you overdo it and irritate the median nerve, you may feel pain, tingling and numbness in the forearm and into the hand. Ask a physiotherapist or chiropractor to demonstrate median nerve stretches using a wall.