What is Carpal Tunnel?
Every day at OSR we deal with common pains like back pain, neck pain, and foot pain. These are three very common areas for pain. Another place that is very common for pain is your hands. Because your hands are used almost all day every day for most people, there are lots of opportunities for injury. People who have spent their whole lives working in an office setting, or doing small tedious work will often suffer from hand pain, or more severely known as carpal tunnel.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is extremely common in America and affects as many as one in 20 people in our country. Carpal tunnel when there is a numbness, tingling or weakness in your hand as a result of compression of your median nerve. The median nerve is the nerve in the hand that controls movement and sensation in the palm of the hand, the thumb and the fingers. When there is pressure on the nerve, it is compressed inside of the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow passageway in the wrist formed by bones on the bottom and sides, along with a ligament that forms the top of the tunnel. Too much pressure on the median nerve is what causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
The median nerve shares the carpal tunnel with several tendons. If these tendons become swollen by extensive finger use and wrist flexion, the compressed median nerve may cause a feeling of numbness or “pins and needles” in the fingers and wrist. Given the prevalence of technology in all aspects of life and the strong impact that excessive keyboard and computer use can have on the median nerve, the incidence of CTS is likely to increase. CTS is common in professions such as assembly-line work and jobs requiring the use of hand tools, especially those that vibrate. Some leisure activities, such as sewing, sports such as racquetball and handball, and playing string instruments such as the violin, can also cause CTS.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome vary from patient to patient. One of the most common symptoms is numbness in the hand. This will most often occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of your finger. Generally your little finger will not be affected because it is actually controlled by separate nerves. The sooner that you start treating your carpal tunnel syndrome, the better your chances are of getting rid of the symptoms. If you are getting these symptoms during certain activity, try to ice your hand after the activity and spend more time breaking from the activity if possible.
One of the most basic treatment options here at OSR for CTS involves simply making a change in posture. Because all your joints are linked, improving your overall body posture will help keep your hands and wrists properly aligned. Avoid keeping your wrists bent unnecessarily. Being overall healthy can also help your CTS, be at a healthy weight, don’t smoke, and exercise to keep your body strong and overall wellness will help immensely. You should also take regular “stretch breaks” during your daily routines to keep your joints limber. Sleeping with a night splint can help reduce symptoms while training your wrist muscles to align properly.
Oahu Spine and Rehab physical therapy can develop a course of therapy to treat CTS that may include:
- Gliding exercises that move your fingers in specified patterns to help tendons and nerves move through your carpal tunnel
- Manual therapy to release tight tendons and muscles
- Splinting to immobilize the wrist and relieve pain
- Kinesio taping
Kinesio tape is used in the OSR office to reduce hand swelling, pain and inflammation that is related to carpal tunnel. By using Kinesio tape on the wrist and fingers, you are reducing the pressure on the underlying structures of the hand. The tape allows full range of motion unlike other carpal tunnel braces, and it can provide pain and inflammation relief. When we are k-taping here in Kailua, we provide a long stabilizing structure by placing the tape down the forearm as well as over the fingers.
Before engaging in any lifestyle changes, give OSR a call at 488-5555! We can design a physical therapy program right here in Kailua to help you avoid further injury. If undertaking lifestyle changes and exercises does not lead to the desired results, surgery may be the best solution. If surgery is necessary, OSR will be here after your surgery in order to help you restore flexibility and range of motion. Make sure you have the best information and guidance possible by giving us a call or visiting our clinic in Kailua!