What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that affects the hand and wrist. The carpal tunnel is a small space in the wrist through which the median nerve and tendons pass. This nerve controls movement and sensation in the thumb and first three fingers. CTS occurs when the median nerve is compressed, causing pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the hand and wrist.
Understand the Carpal Tunnel ?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage formed by the bones of the wrist and the ligaments that are wrapped around them. The median nerve and tendons that move the fingers and thumb pass through this tunnel and into the hand. As you can see in the video below.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As with any condition, there can be multiple causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. In many cases, it is the result of a combination of factors. Some of the most common causes include:
- Repetitive motions: Frequent movements or positions that put stress on the wrist can lead to CTS. This is often seen in people who do a lot of typing, using tools, or playing musical instruments.
- Wrist injury: A blow to the wrist or other type of trauma can cause damage to the median nerve. This can lead to inflammation and swelling, which puts pressure on the nerve and leads to CTS.
- Arthritis: The inflammation associated with arthritis can also compress the median nerve and cause CTS.
- Pregnancy: Changes in hormone levels and fluid retention during pregnancy can lead to CTS. This is often seen in women who are pregnant with twins or triplets.
- Medical conditions: There are a number of medical conditions that can increase the risk of developing CTS, including diabetes, thyroid problems, and Lupus.
Symptoms of CTS?
The earliest signs of CTS can include tingling, numbness, and burning sensations in the fingers, particularly the thumb, index, and middle fingers. As the condition progresses, these sensations may worsen, and you may notice that the affected fingers feel weak or clumsy. Pain may also start to occur, and it can radiate up the arm to the shoulder or even the neck. In some cases, the pain may be severe enough to wake you up from sleep.
Who are most affected by CTS?
People who use their hands and wrists in repetitive motions, such as typing and using a mouse, are at the highest risk for developing CTS. These include office workers, computer programmers, assembly line workers, and factory workers. People who spend hours a day playing video games or doing other activities that require frequent use of the hands and wrists may also be at risk.
The elderly are also at greater risk for developing CTS. With age come a decrease in strength and flexibility in the hands and wrists, which can put strain on the muscles and tendons that make up the carpal tunnel.
How to Prevent CTS at Home?
Here are some of the best ways to prevent CTS:
- Take frequent breaks: Using your hands and wrists for extended periods of time can lead to CTS. Take frequent breaks throughout the day to give your hands a rest and reduce your risk of developing CTS.
- Use ergonomic workstations: When possible, use an ergonomic workstation. This includes a desk, chair, and keyboard that are all designed to reduce the strain on your wrists and hands.
- Wear a splint: A wrist splint can be used to keep your wrists in a neutral position to reduce pressure on the median nerve. Make sure to wear the splint as instructed by your doctor.
- Exercise your wrists: Exercising your wrists can help reduce the risk of CTS. Try gripping a ball in your hands and slowly rotating your wrists in circles.
- Avoid certain activities: Activities that require repetitive motions of the wrist and hand can increase your risk of CTS. Avoid activities such as typing and knitting if possible.
By following these tips, you can lower your risk of developing CTS.
Treatments Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Non-surgical treatments for CTS include physical therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, ultrasound therapy and acupuncture. These methods help to reduce inflammation, improve flexibility, and increase strength in the wrist and hand muscles. Additionally, certain medications may be prescribed to help relieve the pain associated with CTS.
In more severe cases, surgery may be required to reduce the pressure on the median nerve. This procedure, called carpal tunnel release, involves cutting the ligament that runs across the carpal tunnel and relieving the pressure on the nerve. While surgery is generally effective, it is not without risks and complications, so it should only be considered when other treatments have failed.
Ultimately, the best treatment for CTS depends on the severity of the condition, the patient’s medical history, and their individual preferences. A doctor or physical therapist can help determine the most effective course of treatment for each individual. With the right treatment plan, most people can expect to find relief from the symptoms of CTS.
How To Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the Workplace
Fortunately, there are several steps that employers and employees can take together to prevent and manage CTS in the workplace.
The first step to avoiding CTS is to make sure employees are properly trained in ergonomics. This includes:-
- Proper sitting and standing posture
- Use of the keyboard and mouse, and the use of hand, wrist, and arm support devices.
- Encourage employees to take frequent breaks from using the computer and to stretch and move their wrists, hands, and arms regularly.
- Providing CTS-specific education and training to employees.
- Stay up to date on the latest research and strategies on CTS prevention.
Exercises To Strengthen Your Wrists
there are many exercises one can do to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the wrists and forearms, helping to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Wrist circles
- Wrist curls
- Fist clench
- Wrist extensions
How Physical Therapy Can Help
- One of the main treatments used to alleviate CTS symptoms is manual therapy. This includes stretching, soft tissue massage, and joint mobilization, which can help reduce the pressure on the median nerve that is causing the symptoms.
- In addition to manual therapy, physical therapists may also suggest other treatments such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound. These modalities work to reduce pain and inflammation, which can help reduce the symptoms of CTS.
- Physical therapists also look to help patients adjust their posture, grip, and habits to help reduce the stress on the median nerve. This can include changing how a person types or holds a tool or pen, as well as changing the way they sit or stand.
- By implementing a comprehensive plan of care, physical therapists can help patients with CTS reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
What we offer
At our clinic, we have experienced practitioners who can help you determine the best course of treatment for your CTS. We will take the time to discuss your options and develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. So if you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of CTS, contact us today to find out how we can help!