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 pain and swelling from irritation of the median nerve and surrounding tissues. There are a number of simple ways to prevent hand pain and stiffness at home, but if the problems persist, it’s very important to receive professional treatment.
At Cawley Physical Therapy, we know that, without proper treatment, this painful condition could lead to permanent weakness and disability in one or both hands. That’s why we want you to be well-informed about what carpal tunnel syndrome is, how to recognize it, and what our experienced physical therapists can do to help you.
Anatomy of the Wrist
The wrist is a vital passageway that contains both the radial and ulnar arteries that supply blood flow to the hand. It also houses the carpal bones, which 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, which is a tough, fibrous band that resides on top of the carpal tunnel (where the wrist and palm of the hand 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, especially those that vibrate, can aggravate nerves and tissues within the carpal tunnel. As mentioned previously, those who use their hands a lot for typing or operating a smartphone or tablet are also prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Although carpal tunnel syndrome is only one of many ways having a desk job can affect you physically, it’s one of the most common.
Symptoms include pain in the wrist and hands, along with nerve symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and a burning sensation in the hands and fingers. Carpal tunnel sufferers may notice these symptoms, especially while sleeping, since most people unknowingly bend (flex or extend) their wrists during sleep, placing additional pressure on already painful, swollen nerves and tissues.
If left untreated, the excessive compression of nerves coming from the brain into the hand can become so compressed that a person’s hand becomes permanently numb and weak. In severe cases, a person will not even be able to perform fine finger movements such as picking up a coin or buttoning a shirt. Don’t let that happen to you; Cawley Physical Therapy is happy to provide work injury rehab and other helpful treatments.
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 carpal tunnel syndrome 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, including 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, which in turn will reduce pain and swelling.
Evaluating a patient’s posture is also important, as one of the long-term effects of poor posture is nerve compression occurring in the neck and upper body, where the nerves that innervate the fingers and hand originate from. A therapist will likely include gentle manipulation of tissues designed to relax tense muscles in and around the wrist, hands, and fingers.
They may also incorporate exercises designed to strengthen a person’s posture, as well as the muscles in their forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers to correct any weakness. Depending upon the severity of the case, a therapist may assign specific exercises designed to retrain finger, hand, and wrist muscles to regain full range of motion, flexibility, and dexterity.
Get in Touch with Us Today
If you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, please call Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab at 570-208-2787 and make an appointment today.