By Professional Physical Therapy
Do you ever have numbness or tingling in your hands, have trouble gripping things tightly or are experiencing pain that extends to your elbow? You might have carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition occurs most often in people ages 30-60 and is more common in woman than men, according to research done by the Mount Sinai medical team.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) gets its name from an area in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. Running through this tunnel is the median nerve, which Provides sensation to your palm and most of your fingers. When you do the same task repeatedly especially flexing and extending the wrist, you put pressure on the median nerve. Over time, swelling will occur inside the carpal tunnel until the median nerve is compressed or pinched causing a progressively painful condition that can decrease sensation and strength of the hand.
The good news is there are lots of ways to ease your symptoms. One of those is through physical therapy with an occupational therapist or a certified hand specialist.
Common causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The most common cause of this inflammation in the wrist is an underlying medical condition that causes swelling in the wrist. Some conditions linked to carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Thyroid dysfunction
- High blood pressure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Fractures or trauma to the wrist
Symptoms can become worse if the wrist is overextended or flexed repeatedly or if the wrist is positioned in these extreme positions for an extended period. This may be the result of:
- Positioning of wrist while using the keyboard or mouse.
- Over flexing the wrist while sleeping for a prolonged period
- Prolonged exposure to vibrations from using hand tools or power tools.
- Any repeated movement that overextends your wrist, such as playing the piano or typing.
How can Therapy with a Certified Hand Specialist Help
Physical and Occupational therapists that specialize in hand therapy treatment can help reduce carpal tunnel pain and help you regain strength and increase mobility. Treatment options include:
- Joint mobilization: hands on treatment technique to increase range of motion.
- Wrist splinting: custom splints fabricated by a certified hand therapist for your wrist.
- Manual therapy: includes soft tissue compression over the muscles and swelling reduction techniques.
- Sports Injury rehabilitation: changes to an athlete’s activity like frequent hand repositioning.
- Exercise therapy: specific exercises to improve grip strength.
- Flexibility training: wrist stretches to improve extension mobility, including median nerve mobilization.
- Health and wellness strategies: education on ergonomic changes at work, home and in your leisure time.
How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel
No proven strategies are available to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, but you can minimize stress on the hands and wrists to help. Professional’s Robert Wilutis, MS, OTR, CHT makes the following suggestions to aid in prevention.
- Try a softer touch by reducing your force and relaxing your grip
- Take short breaks, frequent breaks
- Watch your form and positioning of your wrist and hands
- Improve your posture
- Ergonomic changes, i.e., change your computer mouse or keyboard
- Keep your hands warm
At Professional Physical Therapy, our Occupational Therapists and certified hand specialists can help you recover from carpal tunnel syndrome or any other condition effecting your wrists and hands. If you’re experiencing hand pain or discomfort, contact us at one of our hand therapy locations, so we can customize a rehabilitation plan just for you.