Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the wrist and hand. The carpal tunnel is a narrow tunnel formed by the bones and other tissues of your wrist. This tunnel protects your median nerve. The median nerve gives you feeling in your thumb, and index, middle and ring fingers. When other tissues in the carpal tunnel, such as ligaments and tendons, get swollen or inflamed, they press against the median nerve. This pressure can make part of your hand hurt or feel numb.

What leads to carpal tunnel syndrome?

Performing the same hand movements over and over can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. It is most common in people whose occupation requires pinching or gripping with the wrist in a bent position. Those at risk include people who use computers, carpenters, grocery checkers, assembly-line workers, meat packers, violinists and mechanics. Hobbies such as gardening, needlework, golfing and canoeing can also sometimes bring on the symptoms.

Carpal tunnel syndrome may also be caused by an injury to the wrist, such as a fracture. It may be caused by a disease such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid disease. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also common during the last few months of pregnancy because of swelling within the tunnel.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Numbness or tingling in your hand and fingers, especially the thumb, index and middle fingers.
  • Pain in your wrist, palm or forearm.
  • Increased numbness or pain at night. The pain may be so severe it awakens you. Shaking or rubbing your hand may give you some relief.
  • Increased pain with increased activity with the hand/wrist.
  • Difficulty gripping objects.
  • Weakness in your thumb.

Tips to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • If you are overweight, try to lose weight.
  • Seek treatment for any disease you have that may cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • If you perform the same tasks with your hands over and over, try not to bend, extend or twist your hands for extended periods of time.
  • Avoid working with your arms too close or too far from your body.
  • Avoid resting your wrists on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
  • Try to switch hands frequently during work tasks.
  • Be sure your tools are not too big or too small for your hands.
  • Take regular breaks from repeated hand movements to give your hands and wrists time to rest.
  • Avoid sitting or standing in the same position all day.
  • If you use a keyboard, adjust the height of your chair so that your forearms are level with your keyboard so you do not have to flex your wrists when you type.
  • Contact a Physical Therapist to help you modify your workstation or activities.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can range from an annoying tingle in your fingers to a debilitating condition that interferes with your normal daily activities or hobbies. The Physical Therapists at Clayton Physical Therapy & Wellness have special training in the hand, wrist and elbow.

Please call to speak to one of our therapists or to receive a FREE information brochure on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.