With all the ubiquitous use of smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. it should come as no surprise that carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common nerve entrapment syndrome reported by the medical community. Carpal tunnel syndrome is named for the narrow passageway in each wrist that houses among other things, the median nerve that transmits nerve impulses between the brain and the hands. The more a person uses their hands and wrists, the more likely they are to eventually develop carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s very important to receive the correct treatment for this painful condition, as, without treatment, it could lead to permanent weakness and disability in one or both hands.

Anatomy of the Wrist

The wrist is a vital passageway that contains radial and ulnar arteries that supply blood flow to the hand. It also houses the carpal bones. The carpal bone is a series of 8 bones connecting the hand to the forearm, the flexor tendons that assist in hand and wrist movement, and the radial, ulnar, and median nerves. There is also the transverse carpal ligament. The carpal ligament is a tough, fibrous band that resides on top of the carpal tunnel (where the wrist and palm meet). This ligament helps to hold the wrist bones in place.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel and Symptoms

People that engage in excessive use of their hands may eventually develop pain and swelling within one or both wrists. Any repetitive activity that requires sustained flexion or extension of the wrist or hand, makes a person more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Other activities such as excessive use of hand tools can aggravate nerves and tissues within the carpal tunnel. As mentioned, those who use their hands a lot for typing are also prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms include pain in the wrist and hands. It also includes nerve symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and/or a burning sensation in the hands and fingers. Carpal tunnel sufferers may notice these symptoms. This can even happen while sleeping since most people unknowingly bend (flex or extend) their wrists during sleep. This places additional pressure on already painful, swollen nerves and tissues.

If left untreated, the excessive compression of nerves from the brain into the hand can become compressed. Consequently, a person’s hand becomes permanently numb and weak. In severe cases, a person will not even be able to perform fine finger movements.

Solutions for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome can be resolved through physical therapy, although in severe cases, a physician may decide that surgery is required. Physical therapy can help patients in a variety of ways. A good physical therapist will take a holistic approach when it comes to treating a carpal tunnel patient. Initially, they will likely focus on pain-relieving measures. This includes fitting a patient with wrist splints designed to keep the wrist in a neutral position, especially when sleeping. They will also offer professional guidance as to what hand and wrist movements to avoid to provide rest for irritated tissues.

Evaluating a patient’s posture is also important to determine. This way, you’ll find if any nerve compression is occurring in the neck and upper body. A therapist will likely include gentle manipulation of tissues to relax tense muscles in and around the wrist, hands, and fingers. They may also incorporate exercises designed to strengthen a person’s posture. And, strengthen the muscles in their forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers to correct any weakness. A therapist may assign specific exercises designed to retrain finger, hand, and wrist muscles to regain full range of motion, flexibility, and dexterity.

If you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, please call Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab at 570-208-2787 and make an appointment today.