What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common condition of the wrist and hand which is caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway located on the palm side of your wrist which protects the median nerve, a nerve that runs down your forearm and into your palm, and the nine tendons that bend your fingers. The median nerve is responsible for controlling sensations to the palm side of the thumb and all fingers, except the pinky, and sending impulses to some of the small muscles in your hand to allow for movement of the thumb and fingers. When the median nerve gets compressed or pinched, Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs. Compression of the median nerve leads to symptoms such as tingling, numbness and itching in the palm of the hand and fingers, especially in the thumb, index and middle fingers. As symptoms worsen, weakness in grip strength and overall hand movement may begin. Symptoms can also begin to radiate to the forearm or shoulder.
Carpal tunnel syndrome usually results from a combination of factors. Certain conditions such as diabetes which can degenerate the nerve or rheumatoid arthritis which can inflame it, may increase the risk of the condition and cause it. Wrist sprains or fractures can also narrow the carpal tunnel and irritate the median nerve. Repetitive movements such as typing at work or forceful movements in some leisure activities, such as in handball or racquetball are also associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
How can Physical Therapy Help?
Physical therapy can help reduce the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, restore your mobility and get you ready and back to performing your normal everyday activities.
Depending on the severity of your condition, the following can be included in your physical therapy treatment:
- Exercises to help strengthen the muscles of your hand, fingers and forearm
- Stretches to help improve wrist, hand and finger flexibility and mobility
- Educational materials concerning proper wrist positions and proper neck and back posture
- Heat/Cold treatments to relieve pain
- Use of wrist splints to reduce discomfort