What do I do for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Do you find yourself shaking your hands to relieve funny sensations in your fingers? Have you noticed it’s become difficult to open jars, turn the key to your car, or lift the tea kettle? If so, you may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), a condition of the wrist and hand that typically results in numbness and tingling.
These sensations are often due to the sensitivity of the median nerve, which runs along your forearm, through your wrist, and into your hand. There are few known personal risk factors for CTS such as smoking, type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, and pregnancy; there are also a few occupational risk factors such as a rapid increase in and repeated exposures to vibration, and high-load hand gripping or pinching during manual labour tasks.
Contrary to popular belief, there does not appear to be a strong relationship between CTS and keyboard or mouse work; A recent Cochrane review determined “there is insufficient evidence from randomized, controlled trials to determine whether ergonomic positioning or equipment is beneficial or harmful for treating carpal tunnel syndrome 2.”
Some research has found the onset of CTS was actually associated with new onset medical diagnosis, an accident, or even low job satisfaction.
Although the risk factors for CTS are unclear, our treatment strategies are evidence-based and the prognosis is good. The two main treatments for CTS are physical therapy and surgery. A study published in the Journal of Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy found that after one year, patients who had physical therapy had similar outcomes to those who had surgery.
Even better was that the group who had physical therapy experienced faster improvements than the surgical group, which suggests that physical therapy seems to be equally as effective as surgery for most individuals. There are other studied treatments for CTS such as splinting and injections but appear to only provide short-term relief.
If you are experiencing CTS symptoms, book an appointment with your healthcare provider to determine potential causes and to learn about active treatment strategies to get back to good health.
By Sean Overin, Physiotherapist