Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Physical Therapy for Carpal Tunnel

You likely use your hands for most daily activities. If you have a hand condition like carpal tunnel syndrome, it may not be easy to look after yourself, your home, and others in your care. Whether you’re interested in learning more about CTS or a physical therapy regimen to alleviate symptoms, we at Progressive Edge Physical Therapy in  Union, NJ have the answers.

What Happens to Your Carpal Tunnels With CTS?

Your carpal tunnel runs along the inner part of your wrist, enveloping the finger tendons and median nerve. While the tunnel is typically dime-sized in width, multiple conditions may vary its size, affecting your mobility. 

How Do You Get CTS?

A hand injury or condition like rheumatoid arthritis can cause the passageway to become smaller, rubbing uncomfortably against the nerves. Inflammation creates the same friction by causing swelling in the nerves and joints. Other factors that contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome and may require physical therapy in the long run include:

  • Pressure on your hands, wrists, or fingers, leading to inflammation
  • Repetitive movement of your fingers during activities like computer typing or piano playing
  • Outwardly extending your wrists for long periods
  • Excessively clutching items like video game controllers, rackets, smartphones, or instruments
  • Overworking your hands, such as while on an assembly line
  • A medical history of inflammation, fluid retention, or diabetes
  • Hormone changes and medication use, including steroids

What Symptoms Accompany Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Like arthritis, you may notice pain and stiffness in the joints. At first, your ability to move regresses after waking. Shaking your hands for a few seconds temporarily alleviates the problem, but if a physical therapist doesn’t see you immediately, it can drastically affect your quality of life. 

You’ll notice more symptoms without physical therapy, such as numbness and tingling. You’ll also feel symptoms more times throughout the day. These symptoms usually run through all fingers outside the pinky, primarily affecting the most-used digits, including the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger. 

You’ll also notice weakness in your fingers that causes you to drop things abruptly and reduce your ability to lift heavier objects.

How Does Physical Therapy Assist With CTS?

Diagnosing Your Condition

During physical therapy, your therapist begins by conducting a physical examination and asking about your condition. They will also want to know how or when the symptoms began, including:

  • If and when you sustained an injury
  • If you regularly make repetitive motions with your hands or fingers, such as in the packing industry or during sports
  • If a healthcare provider has seen or treated your condition before
  • If you have pain or other symptoms 

After the interview, your physical therapist may want to observe your motor skills by asking you to reach for or grip objects of different sizes and shapes to diagnose and treat your condition. They’ll then visually examine and feel from the fingertip to the forearm to determine painful spots. Your physical therapist may also conduct any of the following:

  • A Tinel’s Sign test that uses a reflex hammer to uncover tingling in the joints
  • Nerve studies with an electromyogram test
  • X-rays to evaluate trauma to joints or bones

Finding the Right Treatment Plan 

Next, your physical therapist relays ways to lessen daily symptoms by exercising and stretching your joints. Some examples include altering your wrist positions, doing full-body stretches, and fixing your posture. Whether you’re an avid texter or use a keyboard throughout the workday, abstain from these activities to avoid worsening your condition by neglect. 

Other treatment plans include using equipment like ultrasounds to release light pulsations along the affected area, a traction device that strengthens the carpal tunnels, or a splint for nighttime relief. 

Grasp on to a Healthier Future 

No one wants to slow down during a busy day, especially for pain. If you’re noticing any abnormalities in your finger movements or wrists or general ailments in your hands, don’t hesitate. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome only worsen with time, leading to more numbness and pain. 

Get back to feeling like yourself with physical therapy in  Union, NJ. Our professional and experienced physical therapists have seen all sorts of conditions, and we’ll begin treating you immediately. Call Progressive Edge Physical Therapy at 201-563-8418 for relief today!

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How Can PT for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Help Me?

If you experience pain in your hand and arm along with numbness or a tingling feeling, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). People who have a family history of CTS may not be able to avoid this condition and will likely experience it at some point between the ages of 18 and 64.

The good news is that, thanks to physical therapy science, CTS is highly treatable with PT, often without the need for surgery. If surgery is necessary to relieve symptoms of CTS, therapy following surgery can restore your wrist’s strength and prevent future problems. 

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? 

The carpal tunnel is a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand. The median nerve and muscle tendons pass through the carpal tunnel and control the muscles in the palm of the hand, allowing the fingers to move. The median nerve also ensures that you have normal sensation or feeling in your thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when tissue swells, causing pressure to build up inside the carpal tunnel and pinches the median nerve. It causes numbness and tingling in the hand and arm as a result of this pinched nerve. Over time, the increased pressure on the median nerve affects the areas of the hand that the nerve supplies. 

Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

CTS usually presents as hand weakness or pain, numbness, or tingling in all fingers except the pinky finger. If left untreated, moderate symptoms can develop into nerve damage or severe issues requiring surgery. 

Factors that increase your risk for CTS include an unhealthy lifestyle, a wrist fracture, or health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Before diagnosing you with CTS, your physical therapist will ask you questions about the symptoms you experience and will do a physical examination to check for signs of swelling, tenderness, or deformities.  

Your physical therapist may also consult with your primary healthcare provider or any other healthcare professional to determine the presence of other risk factors. 

Physical Therapy (PT) for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

The treatments for CTS depend on the severity of the condition and can range from medical advice to surgery. Your physical therapist will provide you with a customized treatment plan that may include a therapeutic exercise program and medication. 

Conservative Physical Therapy 

In the case of early-stage CTS, conservative treatment is often sufficient to reduce symptoms. This program may include: 

  • Undergoing patient education to help you keep your body and wrists in a healthy, neutral position while working
  • Wearing wrist splints to stabilize your wrist and reduce pressure on the median nerve
  • Doing regular carpal tunnel exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding your wrist
  • Undergoing heat and cold treatments to relieve pain

Your physical therapist may also recommend moderate stretch exercising to improve the mobility and function of your fingers and wrist. The most common stretching exercises include: 

  • Prayer stretch exercises
  • Wrist flexor stretch exercises
  • Wrist extensor stretch exercises 

Conservative treatments, including wrist flexion and other carpal tunnel exercises, can prevent the need for surgery. However, in the case of advanced CTS, a surgical procedure may be necessary to remove the swollen tissue and relieve pressure on the nerves of the hand and forearm.   

PT After Carpal Tunnel Surgery 

After undergoing surgery, your health care provider will typically recommend therapy to: 

  • Improve your wrist’s strength, flexibility, and function
  • Help you adopt healthy habits to prevent future issues with your wrist, hand, and fingers
  • Prevent scar tissue from forming around the surgical site 

Post-surgery treatments include various exercises to stretch and strengthen your wrists. Your therapist may also recommend nerve gliding exercises, which involve bending your wrist backward so that the palm side of your hand and your fingers face away from you. 

When doing nerve gliding exercises, follow your therapist’s instructions closely to avoid making your symptoms worse.  

As part of post-surgery, your therapist will also provide scar management to keep your skin flexible. Factors determining which scar management treatments you need include: 

  • The proximity of the scar to the nerves
  • The shape and size of the scar
  • The type of scar (hypertrophic or keloid scarring)
  • The scar’s sensitivity to clothing, jewelry, and other surfaces 

After surgery, your therapist will do a thorough examination, consider the surgeon’s recommendations, and provide you with a custom post-surgery therapy plan. 

Effective Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

When you notice symptoms of CTS, seeking early treatment is critical to prevent severe issues with your wrist and hand. Contact us today to schedule a thorough examination and consultation with one of our professional physical therapists. 

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