Carpal Tunnel Syndrome FAQ
Carpal tunnel syndrome results from pressure on the median nerve in the wrist beneath a ligament called the transverse carpal ligament. People with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience pain and numbness/tingling, which may be more severe at night. They may also experience clumsiness or weakness in the hand, which may continue to get worse if left untreated.
Q: How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?
A: Hand therapy treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome begins with an evaluation of your joint motion, sensation and strength in your hand. You may also be asked about the type of work you do, your daily activities and your hobbies. Treatment is focused on taking the pressure off of the median nerve through splinting and modifying activities that may be contributing to your syndrome. Custom splints can be fabricated for you at Hand Therapy. You also may receive specific exercises to keep the tissues gliding and improve blood flow to the area.
Q: What is a carpal tunnel?
A: It is an area in the wrist through which the median nerve and nine tendons pass. It is bony on 3 sides and is covered by a tough ligament, which forms the narrow carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when pressure builds up from swelling in this tunnel and puts pressure on this nerve.
Q: How did I get carpal tunnel syndrome?
A: Carpal tunnel syndrome has various causes. It can be caused by wear and tear from repetitive hand movements that press the median nerve against the tunnel. It also can be caused by a fracture or bone dislocation in the wrist. Sometimes fluid retention, such as during pregnancy, can cause swelling of the tissue in the carpal tunnel and lead to symptoms. Thyroid conditions, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes may also be associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Q: How can I prevent carpal tunnel?
A: There are steps that you can take to decrease your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. One is to minimize repetitive movements or avoid holding an object the same way for long periods of time. Another is to keep your wrist as straight as possible. Allow for rest breaks. Try to grip with the whole hand, not just the thumb and index finger. Strengthen weak muscles so that you don't compensate with poor wrist positions. Reduce the speed and force of repetitive motions to allow your wrist to recover. Using power tools instead of hand tools may also help. Good ergonomic alignment at your computer workstation is a must.
Q: Do I need hand therapy if I have surgery?
A: Many people do very well if treated once or twice following surgery. You will be taught specific exercises to keep your median nerve and tendons gliding through the carpal tunnel. You will also be shown massage techniques to help your healing scar. Your therapist may discuss with you ways to preventing reoccurrence and time lines in which to reintroduce levels of daily activities.