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Physical Therapy and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Have you experienced a piercing pain shooting through your wrists and up your arms? You might have symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a common condition that occurs when the median nerve is compressed in the carpal tunnel. In other words, the nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. With the increasing usage of computers, cell phones and tablets, we are using our hands and wrists to communicate more. Because of this, the tendons in the wrists and hands become overused and cause increased discomfort in the wrist joint. The carpal tunnel consists of the median nerve and 8 tendons running through a protective sheath. If this sheath is compressed or the tendon hypertrophies due to overuse, the nerve sends the wrong signals of pain, numbness, tingling, and decreased strength to the hand.

Sometimes carpal tunnel syndrome can be misdiagnosed due to the signs and symptoms it mimics. For example, if a person has any neck issues such as a bulging disc, stenosis, or even poor posture, over time, the hands may start to tingle and go numb. There may be increasing pain or shooting pain down the forearm and wrists. These are all signs and symptoms that mimic carpal tunnel; however , it can be properly diagnosed by a physical therapist with a few simple tests and a thorough examination.

Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome can consist of oral medications, physical therapy, and alternative therapy such as yoga. Some doctors will prescribe a wrist brace which puts the hand in 30 degrees wrist extension.

This is considered a neutral, functional position for the wrist so the individual can still work and use their hands throughout the day without pain or discomfort. After about 2-6 months of conservative treatment, a physician can determine whether or not surgical intervention is necessary.

According to National Institute of Health, carpal tunnel release is one of the more common surgical procedures in the U.S. and is performed if signs and symptoms persist more than 6 months. Although symptoms may be relieved immediately after surgery, full recovery from carpal tunnel surgery can take months. Some patients may have infection, nerve damage, stiffness, and pain at the scar. Occasionally the wrist loses strength because the carpal ligament is cut. Patients should undergo physical therapy after surgery to restore wrist strength. Some patients may need to adjust job duties or even change jobs after recovery from surgery.

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and are not sure if you need treatment, call one of the therapists at Mizuta & Associates to discuss your options and get an initial evaluation. For more information, visit the National Institute of Health’s website.

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