What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a chronic condition that affects the hands and forearms, causing pain, numbness and tingling. Women are three times more likely to get carpal tunnel due to the shape of their bones and ligaments, with the most common age being between 40-60 years old.

What is it?

The bones in your wrist form a semi-circle that make up the sides and base of a channel known as your carpal tunnel. A tough band of tissue, known as the transverse carpal ligament, creates the top which gives you the tunnel shape.

The tendons that you use to flex your fingers and wrist, along with your median nerve run through this tunnel. If this nerve comes under pressure it can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. 

What are the causes of carpal tunnel?

It is caused by your median nerve being compressed either at the wrist or in the neck. The median nerve runs from your C5-T1 vertebrae down your arm and into your hand. If you have incorrect posture in the upper body this can lead to pressure being put on the nerve which then shots down the arm.

More commonly if your activities involve repetitive actions such as typing or working with tools then this can produce swelling into the already tiny space that is your carpal tunnel and that’s when the pain or tingling comes on. There are lots of reasons why this may happen so it can be difficult to pin point the exact cause. Many of our clients are desk based and therefore type alot and over time symptoms appear. If you have compression in both the wrist and neck this is known as double crush syndrome.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • pain in your hand and wrist, which may spread to your forearm, upper arm and shoulder

  • numb hands

  • a tingling sensation

  • weakness

The tingling you feel will be predominantly in your thumb, pointer, middle and half of your ring finger. The pinky stays safe!

The weakness associated with carpal tunnel syndrome usually affects movements that involve your thumb, so you may find it difficult to grip things. Over time, your hand muscles can get weaker. If the condition is severe you may start to find your thumb muscle begins to waste away.

Your symptoms may get better if you shake your wrist or change its position. Early on your symptoms may be mild but if left they can get gradually worse, especially at night even waking you up.

If you have any of these symptoms it is important to get it checked out as soon as possible. Contact your GP or come and see one of our therapists so we can assess it for you.

Treatment for carpal tunnel

There are many options for carpal tunnel but the effectiveness is down to the severity of your symptoms.

  • Wearing splints - keeps the wrist straight. Wearing splints at night is found to be the most effective.

  • Sports massage - This will help take take pressure away fromthe whole length of the median nerve.

  • Exercise therpay - Will help to re align your body and free it from compressing on the nerve.

  • Steroid injection - Your GP may suggest this as an option if the previous solutions haven’t worked.

  • Surgery - Lastly in severe cases or where other treatments have not worked surgery is an option.

Exercises / tips to help you

Because the nerve can be compressed either in the neck and/or the wrist it is important to work on both areas for the best results.

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Chest

Lay on your back and stretch your arms out to either side and hold for 30 seconds.

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Nerve glide

Place your arm out to the side with your palm facing up. Gently extend & flex the wrist in small movements. Build up to bigger movements if symptoms ease. Repeat 3 sets of 10.

Over time you can increase this nerve glide by tilting you head to the opposite shoulder as you extend the wrist.

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Wrist stretch

Place your hands on a table, fingers pointing towards you. Very gently apply pressure, straighten your arms and feel the stretch in the forearms. Hold for 30 seconds. If pain gets worse stop!

A great tip for reducing pain or preventing this happening in the first place is to re assess your work station. Is your screen at the right height? Is your keyboard close enough to you? Are you slouching in your chair?

Try the exercises above but please don’t put off getting it checked out if your symptoms persist. Let’s prevent surgery if we can by working together with massage and exercises.