Are you experiencing tingling or feelings of numbness in the palm of the hand or fingers? You could have carpal tunnel syndrome! Let’s explore what carpal tunnel syndrome is and what you can do about it.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a small space base of the hand. This tunnel is covered by a thick ligament and creates a small tunnel where various nerves, arteries and tendons pass through from the forearm into the hand. If anything causes this space to be reduced, these structures can become compressed, particularly the median nerve. This common condition is referred to as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
What are the symptoms?
The hallmark symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are tingling, pain, numbness and/or weakness in the hand, usually following a typical pattern over the thumb, index and middle finger. There can also be a reduction in grip strength and wasting of the thumb muscles. Symptoms are usually worse on waking first thing in the morning or with repetitive hand movements. Some patients might also report difficulty holding items, writing or doing up their buttons.
How does it happen?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by anything that reduces the space in the carpal tunnel, including arthritis, the growth of a cyst or compression from everyday activities. These activities can include how you position your wrist or hand at night when you sleep, how you use your shoulder and wrist during the day and your posture. The median nerve is particularly vulnerable to compression and is of the most concern as prolonged compression can cause nerve damage and permanent weakness of the hands.
How is it treated?
There are a few different treatment options for CTS.
Physiotherapy is the first step which can include assessment of the biomechanics of your arm, the mobility of the median nerve and nerves from the neck and muscle tightness all of which may all be contributing to your symptoms. Your physiotherapist can also determine if your symptoms might be coming from elsewhere, such as your neck! Read more about neck pain here.
Physiotherapy can be highly effective for carpal tunnel syndrome and will involve nerve mobilisation and stretches, along with a period of rest, wearing a night splint and a change in daily habits.
The effectiveness of physiotherapy will depend on the cause of your carpal tunnel problems. If the space of the tunnel has been reduced permanently, such as with arthritis, then surgery is sometimes required. Carpal tunnel surgery is an operation to widen and release the carpal tunnel allowing decompression. This is a common surgery but is not without its risks or complications and requires a period of time off work for recovery.
If you are having ongoing neck, shoulder or arms symptoms it is important to have an accurate assessment and professional diagnosis of your symptoms in order to provide treatment and a plan to move forward with your health.
If you would like to ask questions or have an expert assess your symptoms, then contact us on 07 5448 3369, or simply book an appointment online!
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