Acquire Physical Therapy Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Physical Therapy Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Have you ever experienced an irritating pain in your hands and fingers? Or have you heard of someone you know who has been struggling with such irritation in their hands for several months? It could be a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. It is a common condition and is one of the nerve entrapment neuropathy disorders.

Physical Therapy Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome primarily affects the wrist and palm, leading to pain and numbness, limiting one’s ability to carry out daily activities with ease. Physical therapy is an effective treatment that helps in reducing the symptoms of this condition and promotes hand pain relief.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is an increase in the pressure on a nerve called the median nerve located within the wrist. The median nerve, one of the primary nerves in the hand, passes through a narrow passageway in the wrist called the carpal tunnel and goes into the hand. 

This median nerve plays a vital role in providing sensation in the middle and index fingers, thumb, and half of the ring finger but not the small or pinky finger.

When the carpal tunnel becomes narrowed, it places increased pressure on the median nerve leading to pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand.

Repetitive hand use is an important factor leading to this condition. People whose work needs them to make the same movements repeatedly with hand, wrist, or arm may irritate the tendons in the wrist and cause swelling, thus increasing the pressure on the median nerve.

Heredity is also a significant factor leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people may have a smaller carpal tunnel that changes the amount of space for the nerve, resulting in this condition. This trait can run in families. 

Women also have a smaller carpal tunnel. Hence they are at higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome than men. People affected by a wrist fracture or relocation may put increased pressure on the median nerve, resulting in this condition.

People who struggle with rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, diabetes, or obesity may experience damage in the median nerve, thus developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also lead to this condition.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Patients struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience the following symptoms.

  • Numbness, burning, and tingling sensation in the thumb, middle, and index fingers.
  • Shocking feeling that radiates through the fingers
  • Pain that may travel up the forearm toward the shoulder
  • Inability to perform simple movement activities
  • Weakness in the hands, dropping things or making it difficult to hold things.

Physicians diagnose this condition by performing a special nerve conduction test such as a wrist flexion test to examine the transmission of signals along the affected nerve. Other tests may include sensory tests or wrist and hand range-of-motion tests. An electromyogram (EMG), a diagnostic test, is carried out to determine the condition of the median nerve and its activity.

How Physical Therapy Treats Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Physical therapists examine the functioning of the hands and wrists. They may ask the patients to hold different-sized objects in certain positions for a specific time. They also gently feel around the arm and wrist region to find the exact area of pain. These analyses help them provide the patients with an individualized plan that reduces the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and promotes hand pain relief.

1) Therapeutic Exercises

Therapeutic exercises include gentle stretching and strengthening exercises that improve flexibility in the wrist, hand, and finger and provide them with strength and stability. These exercises help to reduce the pressure on the median nerve at the wrist and may include wrist extension stretch, wrist flexion stretch, median nerve glides, tendon glides, wrist curl, hand squeeze, and finger bend.

2) Heat or Cold Therapy

Heat therapy improves blood flow to the area where the patient experiences hand pain and brings an adequate amount of oxygen and nutrients. Patients can immerse their hands in warm water with a temperature ranging from 92 to 100 degrees, gently moving the hand and wrist. They can do this therapy three to four times a day.

Cold therapy decreases circulation and reduces inflammation caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. Patients can ice their wrists or soak them in an ice bath for 10 minutes to 15 minutes. They can do this once or twice per hour. It reduces irritation in the median nerve and promotes hand pain relief.

3) Massage Therapy

Massage therapy addresses the soft tissues that include muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Physical therapists manipulate the soft tissues by applying varying pressure using their hands and fingers. The pressure depends on the severity of the pain and its location. Massage therapy is effective in reducing pain, improving flexibility and grip strength.

4) Splinting

Physical therapists suggest using wrist splints that can be worn at night times to reduce discomfort. Wrist splints aid in stabilizing the wrists and keeping the hands aligned properly. They also prevent patients from flexing or overextending their wrists while they sleep.

Final Thought

Physical therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment that reduces the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome without the need for surgery and promotes hand pain relief. In addition to providing the patients with customized physical therapy treatment, physical therapists also educate them to prevent the recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome. They also advise patients who handle heavy equipment in their workplace to use precautions like wearing gloves.

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Article Author Details

Eli Bryant