Understanding The Wrist: Carpal Tunnel

What is it? 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is an attack by compression of a nerve structure at the wrist, more precisely at the median nerve. In a simplified way, this means that certain structures of the wrist (bones, tendons, ligaments and others) come to pressure on the nerve and thus compress the nerve fibers allowing to feel or move the hand.


Who could be affected?

Carpal tunnel syndrome usually affects people who repeatedly move the wrist or spend prolonged periods flexing or extending the wrist, often in the course of their work or activities. This includes musicians, people who spend a lot of time on computers and manual workers. Leisure activities such as knitting or sports such as cycling, practiced for long periods of time, can also awaken symptoms. It is important to note that, although these jobs and activities can contribute to the appearance of this condition, the latter are not the only cause of the problem and several factors can lead to the development of the carpal tunnel.


What does it look like?

The most common clinical presentation is a feeling of weakness in the hand accompanied by pain and/or numbness in the hand. The affected area can usually include the palm of the hand, thumb as well as the index, middle and ring fingers. This condition is classified by severity grades:

  • Mild (slight numbness, slight weakness after prolonged work)
  • Severe injury (severe pain or numbness, permanent motor sequelae in the hand).

Carpal tunnel symptoms can vary in intensity during the day and are often present at night. However, there are several other conditions that have similar presentations in terms of symptoms and it is important to consult a health professional to properly diagnose the problem.


How can physiotherapy help?

Surgery is often suggested as a solution to carpal tunnel syndrome, but did you know that symptoms can be greatly reduced or even eliminated with physiotherapy follow-up. A comprehensive approach is necessary to ensure optimal management. This approach includes a good dosage of specific exercises adjusted to the needs and abilities of the patient, carefully chosen manual therapy techniques as well as a modification of certain postures and lifestyle habits. Exercises can be supplemented with modalities to reduce pain and night splints depending on the specific case. If you suffer from carpal tunnel symptoms, do not hesitate to consult a health professional because a range of solutions is available to you!