Carpal Tunnel Explained

 Today I want to talk about carpal tunnel syndrome, a common condition we see in our patients that have desk jobs or jobs that require repetitive movements 

The Anatomy

Carpal tunnel is a condition caused by entrapment or compression of what’s called the median nerve as it goes through an area called the carpal tunnel. As it passes through the tunnel, it will enter the hand along with all the tendons that enter into the fingers. 

In the wrist, there is also a band that helps keep all the anatomy that travels into the hand in place. This band can become thickened with excessive repetitive movements and this will decrease the space allowed for the nerve to travel through the tunnel. 

The Symptoms

What typically happens is you’ll start to have some symptoms in the thumb, index, and middle finger. 

A lot of times you’ll have tingling in those areas. You might have pain or burning, and sometimes even weakness. 

Why It Happens

We see carpal tunnel mainly with desk workers who have poor ergonomics and spends long periods of time in bad positions at their keyboards. We also see this condition in our patient population who have repetitive movements at their work.

There are a couple of things right off the bat that you can do that will help with carpal tunnel.

  1. Wrist braces to sleep in
    • This allows your wrists to get a small break
  2. Stretches and exercises
    • The main goal is to reduce the inflammation within the wrists that are causing the symptoms, be sure to watch our video to see what exercises we recommend.

Orthopedic Signs/Tests

Here are a couple of quick orthopedic signs or tests that you can do on your own to see if it’s actually coming from compression of the median nerve at the wrist. 

Determining this first is important because at times it can actually be happening further up into the arm and it can actually be coming from the neck. We have patients come in that think they have carpal tunnel. We do a proper assessment trying to rule out the nerve roots as they exit the spine and we find out that’s actually where the compression is happening. 

These two tests are easy to do at home to determine where the symptoms are coming from, a simple google search will help you find plenty of videos to show you how to perform these test. Or you can just click and watch our video above.

  1. Tinel’s Sign at the Wrist
  2. Phalen’s Test

Treatment Options (*check out our video to see how to perform these options)

The first thing I like to do is have my patients work on flexibility. Stretching the muscles and moving the joints through their full range of motion. We also want to work on the tendons gliding through the carpal tunnel.