Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes pain, weakness and numbness in the wrist and hand. This condition occurs due to repetitive movements of the wrist that can put a pressure on the nerve at the base of the palm. Activities such as typing on a keyboard, holding a phone, or grasping any heavy objects can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Note that symptoms of carpal tunnel can resemble other conditions like arthritis or wrist tendonitis. Hence a diagnosis from your doctor is important.
If not taken care this condition can become severe, and a surgery may be needed. In this article we will discuss carpal tunnel syndrome and how to deal with it.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is also known as median nerve compression. It affects the wrist and hand causing pain, numbness, and weakness. It happens due to the pressure on the median nerve which runs along the length of the arm, through the passage in the wrist (carpal tunnel) and ends in the hand.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
Carpal tunnel syndrome can feel like this:
- Tingling and numbness in the palm and thumb
- Weakness in the hand
- Pain in the wrist that radiates up the arm
- Tingling sensation in the arm
The symptoms of carpal tunnel usually get worse at night and may subside during the day.
Pressure on the nerve leads to pain and weakness in the wrist and causes numbness or tingling in the fingers. Repetitive movements and repeated finger use can cause carpal tunnel. This condition commonly occurs in people with jobs that require them to use hand tools that vibrate.
Using a keyboard, and mobile phone can lead to this condition. Activities like sewing, gaming, playing musical instruments may cause carpal tunnel.
Health conditions that cause carpal tunnel
Certain health conditions and injuries can lead to carpal tunnel. These conditions are as follows:
- IInjuries to the wrist like sprain or fracture
- Swelling of the tendons in the wrist
If you experience the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome it is best to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Carpal tunnel can often be mistaken for other conditions like arthritis, repetitive strain injury or wrist tendonitis. Hence, a proper diagnosis is needed to identify which condition is responsible for your symptoms. Along with the doctor your physiotherapist can help evaluate your condition and come up with a treatment plan for you.
The physical therapist may start by asking you questions about your symptoms and medical history. There will be a physical exam and the doctor will observe movements that cause pain. Depending on your symptoms and condition the doctor could also run some tests that will help in the diagnosis. Tests include the following:
- Grip strength to test fingers and thumbs
- Sensory tests
- Wrist flexion test
The physical therapist will recommend you to see your doctor in case additional testing or treatment is required. Once the evaluation is done the physiotherapist will come up with a treatment plan to improve your condition.
How physiotherapy can help with carpal tunnel syndrome
Here are some physiotherapy treatments that can help relieve carpal tunnel syndrome.
The physiotherapist will teach you some stretching exercises to improve your wrist and hand. These exercises also help to improve flexibility.
Your physiotherapist will also help you perform strengthening exercises to strengthen muscles.
As part of your treatment, you may be recommended to wear a splint during the night to reduce discomfort.
Cold and heat treatments
Your physiotherapist will use ice or heat to help reduce the symptoms.
Physical therapy can help improve your condition without the need of surgery. However, it is important to deal with this condition early on, as severe cases may need surgery.
Tips to deal with carpal tunnel syndrome
Take breaks from repetitive activities
If you are performing any repetitive tasks like typing, playing a musical instrument, sewing, or working with a hand drill, take a break often. Set a timer of 15 minutes so that you are reminded to take breaks. When the timer goes off, stop the activity and wiggle your fingers. Then stretch your hands and wrists to promote blood flow to these areas.
Wear splints to keep your wrists straight. This helps relieve the pressure from your median nerve. Wearing it while doing any repetitive tasks during the day can be helpful. The symptoms can occur more commonly during the night, wearing splints can reduce discomfort.
Over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen can help with the pain.
Keep your hands warm to help with pain and stiffness.
Avoid extreme wrists flexion
Avoid doing activities that bend your wrist too much in either direction. Keep your wrist neutral as much as you can.
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome and do not take the right measures to treat it, the symptoms can get worse. These symptoms can subside and crop up again. In some cases, there may be a need for surgery. It is better to consult your doctor or physical therapist who can help you diagnose the condition and recommend a proper treatment plan.