Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of median nerve compression in the carpal tunnel. This is a relatively common nerve entrapment syndrome that can be associated with wrist pain and tingling, burning or numbness involving the palm side of the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger (see diagram above). Carpal Tunnel symptoms can arise from highly repetitive use of the fingers. Typically, this results in tendonitis of the 9 tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel with the median nerve. This, in turn, can cause swelling and possible scar formation within the canal, compressing on the nerve. The disease can also be the result of direct compression to the wrist and base of the hand or due to (repetitive) exertion of forces through the wrist and hand particularly from awkward wrist and hand postures.
There have been limited studies to compare the work versus non work-related origins of the condition which may have had a negative effect on prevention efforts. It is important to report symptoms and seek treatment early as this will increase the success of non-surgical intervention. Some businesses have access to an ergonomist or someone who may be able to customize your work station and recommend modifications to minimize physical stress factors.
Your doctor may refer you to an occupational or physical therapist. Your therapist should gather a detailed personal history including your vocational and avocational routines and interests. It may become important to keep a diary of the activities that provoke your symptoms. Anti-inflammatory drugs, ice or other physical agents may be used to calm down the physiological symptoms. Exercises for wrist/forearm, including wrist stretches, finger tendon glide and median nerve glide will help control progression of symptoms and can be incorporated into routine stretch breaks at work. Sometimes splints are used to rest the wrist (for nighttime use only). The therapist can review work or leisure activity, assess risk factors and make recommendations for engineering modifications or personal protective equipment.
Additional medical intervention may be deemed necessary (usually based on nerve study findings). These interventions will be provided through a physician.
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s important to consult with professionals about further treatment. The team at REHAB AT WORK is here to help you through the steps of treatment if a physician determines that is the right path for you. Contact our team today to learn more.
Richard Wilson, OTR