Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is due to an irritation of the synovial membranes surrounding the tendons in the wrist’s carpal tunnel. This inflammation causes pressure on and compression of the median nerve.
The median nerve is responsible for providing sensation to the hands. This compression occurs because the nerve runs through the carpal canal from the arm to the hands.
This space is very small and also accommodates nine other tendons which are used to move the fingers. These tendons are covered with synovium, a lubricating membrane, which may enlarge and swell under some circumstances. If the inflammation is sufficient, it may cause the median nerve to be pressed up against these strong ligaments which in turn can result in numbness and/or tingling in your hand, clumsiness or pain. These are all classic symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
This is a common disorder in people who spend much of their day at a computer or writing. It is considered a repetitive stress injury and can be the result of other activities which are both employment or recreation related. For those individuals who work in positions which place them at a higher risk for the development of this condition, it is advantageous to take preventative measures in order to reduce their risk.
Once CTS has developed it is important for the individual to rest their wrist for at least two weeks. This means that there is decreased use of the hands that is injured. Individuals may find that using a wrist splints designed specifically for people with carpal tunnel syndrome will decrease their pain and increase their rehab success.
Physical therapists have been able to design exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome which both help the individual who already has carpal tunnel syndrome and those who are interested in preventing it. Exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome designed for rehabilitation include stretching of the wrist and forearm as well as grip strengthening.
Those individuals who work at high risk jobs which include repetitive action of the wrist may find that performing several easy exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome during the day will decrease their risk of developing this painful condition. The goals of these exercises are to increase flexibility and strength as well as decrease the potential for inflammation in the tendons and ligaments of the hands.
In the first exercise the person should extend both arms straight in front of them and extend the wrist and fingers back as if holding up a stop sign. Hold this position for five seconds and then straighten the wrist and relax the fingers. With your arms still in front of you and your wrist straight, make a fist and squeeze it tightly. Hold this for five seconds and then then the wrist downward toward the floor. Hold this position for five seconds, then straighten the wrist and relax the fingers. Individuals can repeat this exercise up to 10 times prior to and in the middle of doing repetitive motion at work or play. This will help to warm up the tendons and improve the blood flow to decrease the risk of inflammation.
Exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome also go beyond those of the wrist and forearm. These exercises are often based in yoga theory and have been confirmed through research. Releasing tension in the neck, upper arm, forearm, hand and upper back will decrease the stress felt at the wrist. Yoga instructors will also help students to relax and decrease stress in their bodies. By decreasing stress muscle tension will relax and individuals will enjoy a reduced risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Those who believe they are at a position which places them at a higher risk for developing carpal tunnel should include exercises for their wrist, forearm and hand during their daily activities at work. The development of CTS will include treatment that includes wrist bracing and potentially surgery. It is easier to perform a couple of exercises each day then it is to undergo surgery and go through rehabilitation.
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