Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the hand caused by the entrapment of the median nerve that passes through the carpal tunnel at the wrist. The wrist bones (carpal bones) form the base of the tunnel and strong ligaments (flexor retinaculum) form the roof. The carpal tunnel contains the median nerve, blood vessels and tendons that pass to and from your hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when either the space in the tunnel decreases or when the contents enlarge.
This condition occurs more frequently in females than males between the ages of 40 and 60. It can sometimes affect both hands at the same time.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Gradual onset of pain, burning, tingling or numbness in the median nerve pathway (the thumb, index finger and middle finger)
- Symptoms may be worse at night or early in the morning
- Symptoms may be relieved by shaking or flicking of the hand
- As the condition progresses, there may be numbness and weakness and muscle wasting of the thumb muscles causing difficulty with pinching, gripping and frequently dropping things
The most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Genetics as well as lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Repetitive wrist flexion and extension, gripping and exposure to vibrations
- Abnormalities of the shape or position of the carpal bones caused by dislocations, fractures or arthritis of the wrist
- Increased water retention and hormonal changes during pregnancy
Physiotherapy treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Education on rest, activity modification and work place ergonomics
- Mobilization of the carpal bones and the median nerve
- Therapeutic ultrasound therapy over the carpal tunnel to speed up healing
- Splinting the wrist during sleep
- Exercises to stretch and strengthen forearm and hand muscles, nerve gliding and correction exercises
Book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists to get your wrist assessed.