Rehabilitation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a narrow, fibrous passage in the wrist that protects the median nerve, which runs down the length of arm and through the wrist into the hand. The median nerve controls some hand movement, and sensation in the thumb, index and middle fingers, and half of the ring finger. Irritation or compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel can cause tingling and numbness in the fingers, a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

Nonsurgical Rehabilitation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In most cases, the causes of CTS remain unknown. In some instances, CTS may be the result of genetic predisposition, with some people having atypically small carpal tunnels, making the median nerve more susceptible to irritation. Whether CTS is caused by repetitive motions such as using a computer mouse has not been proven conclusively. Often, CTS can be effectively treated by avoiding or modifying the movement or position that is causing symptoms. Additional treatments may include:

  • Resting the hands
  • Applying cold packs
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication
  • Getting corticosteroid injections
  • Wearing splints

In conjunction with the above, nerve- and tendon-gliding exercises, which stretch and encourage the flexibility of nerves and tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel, may be recommended.

Surgical Rehabilitation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Surgical treatment for CTS, called carpal tunnel release, involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament to relieve pressure on the median nerve. It is an outpatient procedure typically performed on those who have had persistent (lasting longer than 6 months) symptoms that have not responded to other treatment methods. Physical therapy, such as hand-strengthening and stretching exercises, may help to restore strength and flexibility to the wrist and hand.

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