Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can be painful and make it difficult to perform even the simplest of tasks. This condition results from the median nerve that runs the length of your arm through your wrist, becoming compressed or squeezed.
You may have heard that certain hand and wrist exercises for carpal tunnel can effectively address the condition. While early intervention for carpal tunnel syndrome is important and can help encourage positive outcomes, the idea that these exercises are an effective solution is not accurate. Real relief needs real treatment.
At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, we have an entire subspecialty orthopedic team dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome. Our goal is to provide you with the patient-centered care needed to resume the activities you enjoy, without pain or discomfort. Below, we’ll discuss CTS and what solutions may actually work that don’t involve hand and wrist exercises for carpal tunnel.
Causes and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The causes of carpal tunnel syndrome vary. Risk factors can include:
There are studies that suggest women are more susceptible to acquiring carpal tunnel syndrome, but generally, there is an equal distribution among men and women.
- Family History
When the carpal tunnel is anatomically smaller, it can narrow the space for the median nerve, which increases the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. There is an anatomic predisposition for less volume in the carpal tunnel available for space that is passed on genetically.
- Hand-Use Repetition & Vibration
Repetitive motions of the hand and wrist over an extended period of time can irritate the tendons of the wrist, leading to swelling that places pressure on the median nerve. Vibration exposure is typically accompanied with exposures to forceful and repetitive motions that seem to affect the blood vessels, nerves, and muscles of the wrist. Vibration can also be a primary cause of CTS due to the vibration-induced swelling reaction in the median nerve itself and in the tissues surrounding the nerve.
- Hand and Wrist Flexion/Extension
Repeat activities that involve extreme flexion or extension of the hand and wrist can put pressure on the median nerve.
- Health Conditions
Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid gland imbalance, and hormone shifts due to pregnancy can increase swelling and cause an increased pressure on the median nerve.
Those with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience symptoms such as:
- Pain, numbness, tingling, and/or burning (usually in the thumb as well as the index, middle, and ring fingers).
- Pain and/or tingling that radiates up the forearm to the shoulder.
- Sensations similar to being “shocked” (traveling to the thumb as well as the index, middle, and ring fingers).
- Weakness in the hand that causes you to drop items, which can make daily tasks difficult to perform (such as getting dressed).
Better Solutions Than Hand and Wrist Exercises for Carpal Tunnel
Our EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Hand & Wrist Team strives to exhaust every conservative treatment method first when addressing carpal tunnel syndrome.
The following approaches may be prescribed to help relieve symptoms:
- Nighttime Bracing
A brace or wrist splint helps keep the wrist straight, minimizing the pressure placed on the median nerve. Nighttime bracing has shown to be most effective.
- Taking Vitamin B6
Your doctor may recommend taking vitamin B6 which is often used as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Taking Over The Counter Anti-Inflammatories
Your doctor may recommend taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Receiving Steroid Injections
Corticosteroid (cortisone) injections can help relieve pain and inflammation.
- Modifying Activity
Since carpal tunnel can be triggered by the hand and wrist remaining in one position for long periods of time, changing activities can help slow or halt the progression of carpal tunnel syndrome. There may be helpful adjustments that can be made to your place of work or other scenarios that cause pressure to be placed on the median nerve.
While conservative treatments are often successful in addressing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, sometimes surgical intervention is needed. Carpal tunnel release is a common procedure—performed as an endoscopic or open surgery—to relieve pressure on the median nerve. The surgeon cuts about a 2-inch incision on the wrist. Then he or she uses common surgical instruments to cut the carpal ligament and enlarge the carpal tunnel. Rarely will you need physical/hand therapy after surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Prevention
One of the best things you can do to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome is to talk with your doctor and approach treating the condition without thinking hand and wrist exercises for carpal tunnel will be effective. The solutions outlined above can lead to relief of the median nerve and can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the keys to preventing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome from worsening is to consult with an expert hand and wrist specialist.
To learn more, self-schedule an appointment with one of our highly qualified EmergeOrtho–Triangle Region doctors. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.