It’s estimated that one in 20 Americans is affected by carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and it’s no wonder, considering the degree to which our lives are centered on machinery and technology. A painful and sometimes debilitating condition, CTS is actually responsible, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for more missed days of work than any other non-fatal injury.
The good news is that physical therapy can help with both the prevention of and recovery from CTS. Here’s a brief guide to understanding what CTS is, how it is caused, what you can do to lessen your chance or developing it, and how to address it if you do have it.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome, and what causes it?
Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when there is pressure on your median nerve—that is the nerve at the base of your palm. Repetitive motions like those needed for assembly line work or continual typing on a keyboard, as well as taxing the area by frequent use of power tools that vibrate or gripping of the steering wheel to drive, can cause that pressure to build up, and result in a host of symptoms ranging from pain to tingling and numbness. This pain can extend from your fingers, hand, and wrist all the way up your arm.
How can I prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?
There are things you can do to prevent CTS, and a physical therapist at Core3 Physical Therapy can help. Starting with an evaluation of your current condition and lifestyle, your physical therapist can suggest stretches and exercises to relieve the pressure on the median nerve, thus averting the build up that can lead to CTS. Your physical therapist at Core3 can also suggest helpful behavior modifications like taking short stretch breaks at regular intervals.
Many of the general aims and benefits of physical therapy are also useful as preventive measures against CTS, like learning and supporting good posture, and strengthening muscles so that nerves and tendons are better protected.
How can physical therapy help me address carpal tunnel syndrome?
If you do develop carpal tunnel syndrome, physical therapy can help in your recovery. In addition to the methods mentioned above, your physical therapist at Core3 may also use other modalities like ice or heat to help with pain, and may recommend the use of a splint or brace to support the proper positioning of your wrist. Your physical therapist at Core3 will work with you to assess your condition and tailor exercises and stretches to your needs, so that your hands, wrists, and fingers can be strengthened and supported in their proper functioning.
The goal of physical therapy for CTS is, of course, the relief of pain and other symptoms like inflammation, but also the regaining of flexibility, strength, and range of motion, as well as putting into place practices that will support better hand and wrist health moving forward.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a painful experience, but it is also one for which physical therapy can provide a high degree of relief, as well as preventive help. If you are suffering from the symptoms of CTS, call the experts at Core 3 Physical Therapy today and schedule a consult!