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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By: David Bidner

What is Carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel is generally characterized by numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand. Carpal tunnel is an injury caused by compression in the carpal tunnel.  Generally, patients with this injury is from overuse activities such as typing on a keyboard.   What causes these sensations in your hand?  Carpal tunnel syndrome is an irritation of your median nerve in the wrist, so when it’s pinched it can lead to numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in the hand. The syndrome typically affects the thumb, index, and middle fingers.  The median nerve doesn’t affect your little finger. So if your little finger is affected, you may not have carpal tunnel syndrome.

What are the symptoms I should look for?

You may have numbness or pain in your hand, wrist or even forearm.  Sometimes by moving your fingers you can reduce the numbness.  The feeling in your hand may feel as if your hand “fell asleep”.  The numbness or pain gets worse as you continually use your hand, especially if you are gripping an object or flexing your wrist.  You may also notice yourself waking up to having stiffness in your fingers.  So who is generally effected?  Phew! It affects a small percentage of the population.  However, it is more common for middle-aged women.  Now remember that not all pain in the wrist or hand is caused by compression of your carpal tunnel.  Your median nerve originates from the lateral and medial cords of the brachial plexus, and has contributions from ventral roots of C5-C7 and C8 & T1.  In other words, your nerve starts from your cervical vertebrae in your neck, and runs down your arm into your hand.  The nerve could also be pinched throughout your arm.

What exercises can I do for Carpal tunnel syndrome?

  • A good stretch would be the prayer stretch.  First place your palms together in front of your chest below your chin. Slowly lower your hands down towards your belly button, keeping your hands close to your stomach and your palms together. Lower your hands until you feel a mild to moderate stretch beneath your forearms.  Once you have reached a comfortable stretch, hold for 30-60 seconds.  You want to do this three times 4 times a day.
  • The second stretch you can do is a supine wrist flexor stretch.  First straighten your arm in front of you with your palm facing up.  With your other hand, bend your wrist so that you are pointing your hand toward the ground.  Once you are in the stretched position, hold for at least 30-60 seconds. You would want to stretch 3x, 4 days a day.
  • The last stretch is the prone wrist extensor stretch.  Again, extend your arm in front of you.  This time extend your arm with your palm down.  With your other hand, bend your wrist, pointing your hand toward the floor until you find a moderate stretch.  You want to stretch for 30-60 seconds three times, 4 times a day.

I hope this short blog answered a few questions about carpal tunnel syndrome.  I encourage you to reach out to a physical therapist if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.