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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Updated: Jun 25

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition that occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel—a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand—houses the median nerve and tendons. Sometimes, swelling can cause the tunnel to narrow and the median nerve to be compressed, leading to symptoms of CTS.

Causes and Symptoms

The exact cause of CTS is often difficult to identify, but it can be associated with factors that either contribute to increased pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel, such as wrist injury, repetitive hand motions, or certain health conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance.

Symptoms of CTS include:

- Numbness, tingling, and pain in the thumb, index, middle, and part of the ring fingers

- Occasional discomfort in your palm, wrist, and forearm

- Weak grip or difficulty holding objects

- Symptoms often worsen at night

Physical Therapy Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Physical therapy is a valuable non-surgical treatment option for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The treatment aims to reduce symptoms and improve function in the hand and wrist. Here are several strategies that physical therapists may employ:

1. Wrist Splinting: A wrist splint may be used to keep the wrist in a neutral position, especially at night, to alleviate the nocturnal symptoms of tingling and numbness.

2. Nerve Gliding Exercises: These exercises help the median nerve move more freely within the carpal tunnel and can reduce symptoms.

3. Strengthening and Stretching Exercises: Specific exercises can strengthen the muscles of the hand and wrist and improve flexibility. These exercises help in reducing pressure on the median nerve.

4. Manual Therapy: Techniques such as soft tissue mobilization can help improve the mobility of the wrist and hand tissues, potentially reducing symptoms.

5. Ergonomic and Activity Modifications: A physical therapist can offer advice on how to adjust your work and home environments to reduce strain on your wrist. This may include ergonomic adjustments to your workstation, changes in the way you perform certain tasks, or recommendations for breaks and exercises during repetitive activities.

6. Education: Educating patients on how to avoid aggravating their symptoms and how to manage their condition effectively is an essential part of treatment.

Conclusion

While Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can cause significant discomfort and impairment, physical therapy offers a range of treatments that can alleviate symptoms and improve hand function. By employing a comprehensive approach that includes splinting, exercises, manual therapy, and lifestyle modifications, physical therapy can be a highly effective means of managing CTS. If you're experiencing symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, consult with a healthcare provider or a physical therapist to discuss the best treatment options for your specific needs.

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