What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)?
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, tingling, numbness and possible weakness because of pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. The median nerve and several tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve controls movement and feeling in your thumb and first three fingers (excluding your little finger).
Causes of CTS
In general, anything that irritates or compresses the median nerve in the carpal tunnel space can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. For example, fluid retention during pregnancy can narrow the carpal tunnel and irritate the nerve, as can degenerative changes resulting from osteoarthritis. Daily activities such as repetitive typing, use of power tools or gripping can also lead to CTS. It may also be that a combination of risk factors contributes to the development of the condition.
Symptoms of CTS
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers or hand, especially your thumb and index, middle or ring fingers. This sensation often occurs while holding an object such as a phone or maintaining the wrist in a bent position (i.e. while sleeping).
- As CTS progresses, the numb feeling may become constant and cause a need to “shake out” the hands in an attempt to relieve the symptoms.
- Pain radiating from the wrist up the arm into the shoulder or extending down into the palm or fingers, often resulting in a tendency to drop objects.
Physical Therapy Treatment of CTS
- Education on avoiding aggravating activities and postural instruction
- Strengthening exercises for the muscles in the arm, hand, fingers and postural muscles
- Stretching exercises to improve flexibility
- Modalities for pain
- Night splint to ensure proper wrist position while sleeping
- Ergonomic assessment/recommendations
- Manual therapy including nerve gliding exercises