Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: What is it? What Can I Do About it?

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What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition of the wrist and hand. It occurs when the median nerve is compressed in the carpal tunnel.

The carpal tunnel is an area in the wrist where the carpal (wrist bones) form a tunnel where median nerve and multiple tendons pass from the forearm to the hand. There is not much room in the carpal tunnel, and compression may occur with a condition or position that makes the tunnel narrower. Nerves are very sensitive to compression, and this compression causes an uncomfortable feeling in the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger.

Netters Atlas of Human Anatomy, 5th ed.

What does carpal tunnel syndrome feel like?

Pain or any other abnormal sensation, for example: numbness, tingling, burning, buzzing in the palm, thumb, index finger and/or middle finger. This sensation might be most noticeable at night.

You may also experience clumsiness with grasp or fine motor activities (like writing, threading a needle, etc.) or weakness in your hands. A common complaint is difficulty twisting the lids off jars.

What can you do to help?

The most helpful things to reduce pain or tingling in your hands are often easy to implement. Try these things and see if they help improve what you’re feeling.

  • Keeping the wrist in a neutral (or close to neutral) position during aggravating activities can decrease pressure on the nerve. For example, when typing at a computer, try to keep the wrists straight instead of extended (cocked back).
  • If you are having trouble with gripping, try using objects with a larger handle. This makes them easier to grasp.
  • Wearing a wrist splint at night is helpful in some cases. You can buy a basic wrist splint at your local pharmacy or grocery store. It is important the splint does not increase your symptoms or rub on your skin. Before wearing for a full night, wear for at least an hour during the day. If you have any red spots on your skin when you take the brace off, make sure the brace is not too tight. You can also try padding those spots. Do not wear the brace all night if you cannot get the brace to fit correctly!

See a physical therapist if you have persistent symptoms that don’t go away with the tips listed above, symptoms in BOTH hands, neck pain in addition to hand symptoms, or symptoms that are not isolated to your hands.

You should see a physician first if you have muscle loss in your hands or significant weakness of hand or arm.

You can always schedule a free Discovery Visit to figure out of PT is right for you with Dr. Maggie Roeger, a Doctor of Physical Therapy & Orthopedic Specialist. Give Compleo a call at 254-892-4957 if you have any questions!

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