What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain, tingling, and/or burning in your hand because of pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. The carpal tunnel is a structure on the palmar side of the wrist formed by a bony floor (ulnar/radius) and a ligamentous roof (transverse carpal ligament) through which nine tendons pass accompanied by the median nerve. The median nerve controls movement and feeling in your thumb and first three fingers. When the carpal tunnel becomes congested or irritated it poses a problem as it’s space is decreased. There a number or potential culprits to include overuse, inflammation, pregnancy, and others. When the tunnel’s size is decreased the median nerve can become compromised and irritated resulting in symptoms.
Other things that may lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
- Smoking, because it reduces blood flow to the median nerve
- Wrist injuries and bone spurs
- Illnesses such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypothyroidism
- Repetitive hand movements, especially if the hand is in the downward position
What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers or hand. Some people may have pain in the arm between the hand and the elbow. Symptoms most often occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. If you have problems with your other fingers but your little finger is fine, this may be a sign that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. A different nerve (ulnar) gives feeling to the little finger.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
Mild symptoms usually can be treated with home program and physical therapy. The sooner you start treatment, the better your chances of stopping symptoms and preventing long-term damage to the nerve.
Physical Therapy Treatment provided at Lift PT:
- Assess movement patterns of the affected areas (fingers, wrist, elbow) and identify limitations in motion or symptomatic movements.
- Manual therapy using RockBlades, a form of IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation) allows the therapist to detect altered tissue properties and also provides improved tissue mobility without increased pain to the patient during treatment. It interacts with both the nervous system to provide pain relief and the lymphatic system to reduce swelling and inflammation. A 2007 study by Burke used a protocol including IASTM treatment that was shown to effectively improve median nerve function, wrist strength, and wrist motion in a group of carpal tunnel syndrome patients (1).
- When kinesiology tape is applied to the wrist, it gently lifts the skin, reducing pressure on the underlying structures. Applying after the RockBlading technique provides great carryover for the nervous system in pain relief and for the lymphatic system to reduce swelling and inflammation. Because kinesiology tape is lightweight and elastic, it is comfortable to wear and still allows full range of movement of the wrist and hand, unlike many bulky carpal tunnel braces and supports.
- Home program including:
- Daily icing regimen.
- Avoiding activities that increase symptoms
- Gentle stretching program provided which is patient specific.
- Strengthening program for wrist/hand/forearm which is patient specific
- Recommendations provided for ergonomic modification(s) to help to encourage healing and minimize strain to the affected structures.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to represent medical advice. Please consult a qualified health practitioner for assessment and management of any concerns you may have.
- Burke J, Buchberger DJ, Carey-Loghmani MT, Dougherty PE, Greco DS, Dishman JD. A pilot study comparing two manual therapy interventions for carpal tunnel syndrome. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2007 Jan;30(1):50-61.