What is Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel, also known as CTS, is a condition that’s identified by pain, numbness and tingling in your fingers. The cause of this discomfort is due to a major nerve that travels through the wrist being overly compressed or stressed, typically by inflammation of the tissues surrounding the nerve. If you have CTS, you may find yourself suffering from shock-like sensations that radiate through your hands. You can also find yourself clumsily dropping things or losing your grip, due to a feeling of weakness and numbness.
Before we get into tips and treatment options, it’s important to fully understand the condition and the common causes.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
While there is no single cause, the patients we see developed or become at risk for this condition for the following reasons:
Overly Repetitive Hand Use: Most commonly seen in office workers who use a computer all day, it’s this repetition of the same hand and wrist motions for hours and days at a time that can aggravate the tendons and tissues in the wrist. This overuse is what causes swelling, putting extra pressure on the nerve.
Strained Positioning & Motion: If you perform manual labor with your hands on a daily basis, you are at risk as well. By performing activities or motion that involves consistent extreme flexion or extension with your hand and wrist, you can put too much pressure and stress on the nerves and tissues.
Your Overall Health:The better condition you are in to perform tasks the less overall stress it will do to the structures in your body. Thus, staying in shape, watching your weight, and regular exercise will help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are managing diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland issues, you are at an increased risk of developing this condition due to inflammation of the tissues in your wrist and hand.
Pregnancy: Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, your tissues can swell.
Family History: If you have family members who suffer from carpal tunnel, you are at an increased risk.
Cold/Vibration: If you work with machines, tools, or work in cold conditions it causes the circulation to decrease in your arms/hands thus increasing your risk. Wearing gloves requires more strength to perform the task, thus increasing your risk also.
Tips For Relieving Your Carpal Tunnel Pain
While the pain and discomfort of CTS and be debilitating, there are remedies and treatments you can perform at home, before seeing a doctor or hand therapist/physical therapist.
Relax: Pay attention to how hard you are gripping items, like pens, tools, and handles. Make sure you’re only using as much strength and pressure as you really need.
You Deserve a Break: Start inserting scheduled breaks during your workday. During your break, spend a few moments stretching your arms, wrists, and hands.
Alternate Hands: If you find yourself only using one hand for all your tasks, if you can, try switching it up once in a while.
Straighten Your Wrists: Make an effort to ensure that when you’re performing repetitive tasks such as typing or using a mouse that your wrists are straight. This will decrease stress to the structures in the carpal tunnel.
Perfect Your Posture: By sitting with proper posture, you’re more likely to apply less pressure and stress on the structures in your extremities.
Keep Yourself Healthy: By maintaining a healthy weight and diet, your body can better heal itself and you can avoid unnecessary inflammation and other causes of CTS.
Hand Therapy Can Help Treat CTS
Whether you’ve caught your carpal tunnel early or you’ve had a severe case that required surgery, our hand therapist/physical therapists are experienced in building customized programs to help you recover and decrease symptoms in your arm, wrist and hand. By following a therapy program, you can also prevent yourself from suffering from the condition again in the future.
On your first visit, our hand therapist/physical therapists will ask you to describe your symptoms, so we can identify your level of pain, discomfort and begin creating a 5-Star customized plan.
Our most common forms of treatment include:
Changing Habits: We’ll teach you proper wrist positions, neck and back posture and how to take small breaks during your workday to move your arm, wrist and hand. Sometimes it’s the smallest adjustment that can make the biggest difference!
Exercise Routine: Specific tendon gliding and nerve flossing exercises will get you better faster.
Modalities: Heat or cold treatments, is essential in improving healing and your overall well-being.
Wearing an Orthotic: To help stabilize your hand and wrist, in some cases, we may recommend wearing an orthotic.
Ready to Start a Physical Therapy Plan to Treat Your CTS?
At Premier, we’ve helped hundreds of patients treat, manage and overcome their carpal tunnel syndrome, and we’re ready to help you. Remember: CTS only becomes worse over time. So be sure to speak to your doctor or hand therapist/physical therapist right away at the first sign of symptoms.