What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is comprised of the 8 carpal bones (wrist bones) and the transverse carpal ligament. This anatomical tunnel houses 9 tendons and the median nerve. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is when the Median Nerve becomes compressed and irritated as it passes through the carpal tunnel. The Median Nerve can become compressed because either the structural size of the carpal tunnel is decreased, or because the size of the contents of the carpal tunnel are increased. Age-related change, like osteophyte formation may decrease the size of the tunnel, but some people naturally will have a smaller area for the tendons and median nerve to pass through. Swelling or thickening of the tendons and their coverings can also compress on the Medial Nerve. Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include; pain, weakness, numbness and tingling through the palmar (palm facing) side of your hand, and generally more towards the radial (thumb) edge.
What caused my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The exact cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome isn’t clear; however, it is usually considered an overuse injury. Repetitive flexion and extension exert 8x and 10x the pressure, respectively, on the carpal tunnel than when it is in neutral. It is thought that higher levels of repetition of these movements may cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to occur. Any condition that may cause the carpal tunnel to decrease in size, like arthritis, or inflame the tendon coverings, like tenosynovitis, can contribute to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
How can you help me with my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Your physiotherapist will conduct a thorough and individualised assessment to identify the cause of you Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and how it is affecting your life. They will then construct a treatment plan that is specific to you and your condition. Typically, your treatment will involve techniques that are designed to get the Median Nerve to move more smoothly in the Carpal Tunnel, as well as exercise, to stretch and strengthen muscles and correct the underlying cause. Your physiotherapist will be able to educate you on any habits that may need changing to alleviate any pressure on your Median Nerve.
What should I do to avoid aggravating my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- AVOID activities that aggravate the pain. If you use a mouse and keyboard a lot, try to keep your wrists as neutral as possible (your physiotherapist can show you strategies to avoid aggravating your pain).
- DO try gentle, pain-free movements of the wrist and fingers
- Talk to your pharmacist regarding the use of Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory medication
- For RELIEF, try applying heat to the affected area
- RECEIVE physiotherapy care to get your joints, ligaments and muscles performing to their optimum level
Keep good care of your body and your physiotherapist will continue to monitor your condition. Once your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has resolved you will be able to resume your full activities without worrying about future flare-ups.