Wrist pain from carpal tunnel syndrome

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In Arthritis Pain, Hand Therapy, Injury Recovery, Joint Pain, Occupational Therapy by Advance TherapyLeave a Comment

by Ginny Rieger
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a distressingly common affliction for many people. CTS is compression of the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve travels from the shoulder to the hand through the carpal tunnel, and this area is prone to compression. 

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Symptoms of CTS include tingling and numbness in your fingers or hand, usually the thumb and index, middle or ring fingers are affected, but not your small finger. Symptoms typically come on gradually and you might feel a sensation like an electric shock in these fingers, or like your hand and fingers “fell asleep.” The sensation may travel from your wrist up your arm, as well. Symptoms most often occur while holding a steering wheel, phone or book for a long period, or you may wake up with your hands numb in the middle of the night (particularly if you sleep curled up). Often, people will develop weakness in the affected hand(s) and find themselves dropping items or struggling with coordination to open packages and pick up small items. If left untreated, symptoms can worsen and become constant.

Median nerve is compressed in the wrist, resulting in numbness and pain
Why Carpal Tunnel Develops

There are many factors that can impact whether or not a person develops CTS. Wrist fractures, inflammatory conditions, and arthritis can make the carpal tunnel smaller, and increase the odds of developing CTS. Females are also more likely to develop CTS, due to their smaller stature. Interestingly, fluid retention can also cause CTS symptoms, so this is often seen in pregnant women and women in menopause. Workplace factors such as vibrating tools, repetitive or prolonged wrist flexion, or repetitive finger movements can also contribute to the development of CTS. 

Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

So what the heck to do when one develops CTS? This might completely shock you, but THERAPY CAN HELP!  🙂  Therapy is often focused on decreasing the pressure in the tunnel, improving the glide of the tendons and nerve, and helping patients modify tasks to decrease symptoms. Therapists can fabricate custom wrist orthotics to help protect the healing structures and work on strength, coordination, and regaining function in the hand. In extreme cases, if symptoms are not fully alleviated with therapy, a carpal tunnel release may be performed by a surgeon, and therapy can help post-surgery, as well!  Therapy for the win!

As a Certified Hand Therapist, I love treating conditions like this, as patients usually progress quickly and have excellent outcomes! If you are having numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hands, I would love to help you get back to living! 

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