Do you find yourself shaking out your hands to try to alleviate tingling or numbness? Do your hands seem weak and you end up accidentally dropping objects because you can’t grasp them well?
You may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s important to seek out treatment sooner than later with carpal tunnel, to both relieve your symptoms and prevent them from getting worse. Physical therapy can help with carpal tunnel syndrome in its mild to moderate stages. If surgery is needed, physical therapy can help you during recovery.
Here is what you need to know about carpal tunnel syndrome and how physical therapy can help you.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Your carpal tunnel is a passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the inner side of your wrist. Through your carpal tunnel runs the median nerve, which controls the muscles around the base of your thumb and allows for feeling in your thumb and first three fingers.
When your carpal tunnel becomes narrowed or the tissue around it swells, this places pressure on your median nerve. The pressure on your nerve can lead to the tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain carpal tunnel syndrome is known for.
People often confuse carpal tunnel syndrome with arthritis. However, carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t affect your pinky finger, while arthritis can affect all fingers.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Some people are predisposed to carpal tunnel syndrome while others are placed at risk because of their job or their hobbies. Occupations that require repetitive hand and wrist motions, such as in assembly-lines, sewing, using hand-held mobile devices, and more increase your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
However, you can develop carpal tunnel syndrome due to other causes, as well.
Some of the common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Genetics. Some people simply have smaller carpal tunnels than others.
- Repetitive hand movements. This can lead to swelling and pressure on the nerve.
- Hand and wrist position. If you partake in activities that use extreme flexing of your hands and wrists, this can increase the pressure on your median nerve.
- Health conditions. If you have diabetes, arthritis, thyroid issues, or other health conditions, these are also associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Pregnancy. Pregnancy in general causes your body to swell, which can include swelling around your median nerve.
Basically, anything that can cause pressure on your median nerve can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people are at higher risk than others, such as if you are prone to fluid retention, are on certain medications, are a woman, as women generally have smaller carpal tunnels, and more.
When Should You Seek Out Treatment For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The sooner the better! Carpal tunnel syndrome is tricky because it comes on very gradually, but then is highly unlikely to resolve itself without treatment. In most cases, there’s no one specific injury that causes it, but a combination of factors. You may notice that your symptoms come and go.
However, as the condition worsens, you may notice your symptoms more frequently. You may end up being woken up during the night because of your symptoms. You may find that holding things aggravate your symptoms and that shaking your hands alleviates them.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, you will want to see a healthcare provider. They will be able to diagnose the issue and recommend treatment.
What Are Your Treatment Options For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
This depends on how severe your case is. Mild to moderate symptoms can benefit from conservative treatment while severe symptoms may necessitate surgery. Your healthcare provider will be able to determine how severe your case is and recommend appropriate treatment methods for your specific circumstances. They can also advise you on how to prevent carpal tunnel in the future.
Physical therapy for carpal tunnel is an excellent conservative treatment option. Your physical therapist will teach you about the condition and help you prevent it from worsening. They will guide you through stretching and strengthening exercises. They may also recommend cold or heat treatments. It may be advised that you wear a splint in order to reduce your discomfort.
Physical therapy for carpal tunnel can also help with assessing your workspace to ensure it is ergonomic. The goal of physical therapy is to improve your functionality, relieve your pain, and reduce your symptoms without surgery.
However, if you do need surgery, physical therapy can help here too. Your physical therapist can help to prevent scar tissue, promote healing with specific exercises, and educate you on what you can do to avoid compressing your carpal tunnel throughout your life.