Relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with Physical Therapy

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a debilitating condition that often drives patients to turn to surgery for relief. But before you consider an invasive procedure, which carries its own risks, it’s important to explore all of your options. Physical therapy provides many patients with the relief they so desperately need to resume their life, work better, enjoy more restful sleep and time without the constant discomfort of this condition.

That’s why at Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, one of the leading resources in North Jersey for pain relief, we’ve made it a point to include physical therapy services at all of our locations serving Closter, Fair Lawn, Wayne and Oakland, New Jersey.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

To understand carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s first helpful to learn about the carpal tunnel portion of our anatomy. The carpal tunnel is just that, a tunnel, located in the wrist area. Within it, crucial nerves (including the median nerve, blood vessels and tendons supply blood flow and nerve connections to the hand.

The median nerve is especially important because it’s what allows you to feel sensations in your forearm and hand and facilitates the strength and movement of the forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when swelling or a buildup of fluids puts pressure within this tunnel onto the median nerve.

What does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome feel like?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a progressive condition, meaning when left untreated, symptoms will often become more pronounced and severe. The condition typically begins with just slight sensations, such as a burning feeling or a tingling sensation in the thumb or other fingers. You may also feel pain or numbness in your forearm.

This discomfort might become apparent when you’re bending your wrist, since this movement adds additional pressure to the carpal tunnel area. That’s why many people notice their sleep interrupted by this pain, because their wrists have been bent for a number of hours while they sleep. Have you woken up in the morning with the urge to “shake” your hands because they feel stiff or tingly? Carpal tunnel syndrome may be the reason for that.

While symptoms may first show up at night, as the syndrome progresses it can begin to interfere with daily activities like driving, using your phone or holding a golf club. This discomfort can be intermittent at first and then increases with frequency and intensity as the condition becomes more severe. Some patients lose the ability to grip or pinch objects, which can interfere with their ability to work or participate in their favorite pastimes. Loss of sensation may occur, all the while the feelings of pain and “shock” moments increase, causing carpal tunnel syndrome to become a chronic pain condition.

What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Essentially anything that causes pressure to the median nerve within the carpal tunnel can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s important not to confuse carpal tunnel syndrome with a repetitive stress injury.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can happen to anyone, it’s not directly caused by texting too much or holding a tool the wrong way too often. In fact, the causes of carpal tunnel are not fully known. People with some types of occupations do experience more instances of carpal tunnel than the general population, particularly when it comes to working with vibrating tools or tasks that cause you to repetitively flex the wrist back and forth.

However, there are a number of risk factors that make it more like you’ll suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:

  • Conditions that cause fluid retention
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Working regularly in cold environments
  • Wrist fractures and other injuries to the wrist area
  • Arthritis and other conditions which cause inflammation

How to Relieve Carpal Tunnel Pain

If you notice sensations that feel like the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome, there are things you can do to help reduce your risks and discomfort. It’s important to reduce the strain on your wrists and avoid the frequent need to bend the wrist. You should also use warmth to reduce stiffness and avoid cold work environments. It’s also helpful to learn the proper way to position your hands for reducing pressure and inflammation.

While some healthcare professionals will recommend NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, these over-the-counter pain relievers are only temporary fixes that mask the pain. Such pain relievers will need to be continuously taken as they will not address the underlying condition or do anything to solve it.

How does physical therapy relieve carpal tunnel pain?

There are multiple ways physical therapy can help carpal tunnel syndrome. Let’s look at a few of those benefits of physical therapy for this condition.

Physical Therapy Can Provide Pain Relief from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Using techniques such as stretching exercises along with manual massage can help alleviate pain without the need for constant pain pills. Some studies even show that physical therapy provides a quicker route to pain relief for some patients than carpal tunnel surgery.

Regain Strength and Dexterity

Did you realize that over time, when you limit use of your hands due to the pain of carpal tunnel, it can create a cascade of weakened muscles, allowing carpal tunnel syndrome to progress more rapidly. By regularly seeing a physical therapist, you can work on improving your wrist flexibility as well as the strength of these muscles. This process helps to recondition these muscles, tendons and nerves to create less pressure on the area, allowing for greater functioning and less stiffness.

Learn Lifestyle Corrections that Encourage Healthy Habits

Weakness in the muscles of the hand and wrist can contribute to the development and progression of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Physical therapy employs targeted exercises and resistance training to strengthen these muscles, promoting stability and preventing further damage. By enhancing the overall strength and endurance of the affected area, physical therapy aids in reducing symptoms and improving functional capacity.

Posture Correction and Ergonomic Guidance

Although there are numerous predispositions that make someone more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, there are also multiple preventable factors that contribute to the condition. Your physical therapist will work with you on correcting ergonomic issues that occur in your daily routine that contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. By learning how to modify your surroundings and activities, you can prevent flare-ups and minimize how the syndrome progresses. By proactively learning ways to improve your posture and movements, you’ll support a healthier work environment that doesn’t further damage nerves and muscles.

Physical Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in North Jersey

Physical therapy doesn’t need to be an either or choice when it comes to treatment. Many patients who opt for carpal tunnel surgery follow it up with physical therapy to accelerate healing and improve the strength and flexibility of the wrist.

If you’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome or generalized hand and/or wrist pain, take the first step to healing by visiting a physical therapist for an evaluation. If you are just starting to notice the first signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, now is the best time for effective therapy measures that can help to prevent further progression. However, if your carpal tunnel symptoms are severe, there is hope.

Physical therapy can help you regain parts of your life that this painful condition has taken away. Before you consider surgery, explore how physical therapy can improve your carpal tunnel symptoms. If you live in the North Jersey region, Oakland Spine & Physical Therapy has locations in Wayne, Closter, Fair Lawn, and Oakland, New Jersey with experienced physical therapists ready to help you get your life back. Don’t wait to make an evaluation appointment today.