What is it?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, found in the arm, gets trapped and squeezed by swollen tendons as it passes through the wrist to the hand. It can be quite uncomfortable and causes numbness, pain and tingling in the thumb, index and middle finger of the affected hand. Over time, if untreated, it can lead to muscle weakness, loss of grip and chronic pain.
Who can get it?
Anyone can get carpal tunnel syndrome, but women are more at risk than men; it is most often related to work activities, including repetitive movements, but can also be due to genetics, arthritis, thyroid disease, obesity or pregnancy. It is most common for both hands to be affected and for symptoms to start gradually and worsen through the night.
What are my treatment options?
Surgery is only an option for carpal tunnel syndrome in the most severe cases. Frequently non-surgical measures such as medication and physiotherapy are more useful and practical. Steroidal injections, splints and anti-inflammatory drugs are all used to help alleviate the symptoms.
How can physiotherapy help?
Physiotherapy can be instrumental in treating carpal tunnel syndrome. A physiotherapist can:
- Assess the possible causes and educate patients about how to avoid aggravating the affected area.
- Provide exercises to lessen pain, increase muscle strength and release the trapped nerve.
- Provide ultrasound or TENS therapy to decrease pain.
- Recommend additional therapies or medications, such as massage therapy or acupuncture.
How to avoid getting it?
Steps to reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Being physically active.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Taking frequent breaks when performing repetitive tasks.
- Regular hand and wrist exercises.
- Correct form when repeatedly using hands and wrists – for example, do not grip objects too tightly for long periods of time, or stay immobile in an awkward position.
Not all factors that cause carpal tunnel can be avoided, so the key to preventing long term pain is to recognize symptoms early, and seek professional help immediately when there’s a problem.
Make an appointment today with one of our physiotherapists to help you relieve your pain.
Physio Proactive, 2018.