If You Have Carpal Tunnel, See A Physical Therapist
Carpal tunnel is a condition in which soft tissue in the wrist becomes inflamed and starts pushing in and pinching against the carpal nerve. This condition can lead to weakness in the hands and wrists, along with tingling in the fingers. Many people with carpal tunnel syndrome end up seeking surgery to relieve it. But there is another approach to consider if you prefer to avoid surgery. You could see a physical therapist. Physical therapy does not work for every carpal tunnel patient, but it's often worth a try before going under the knife. Here are some of the ways physical therapy can help you treat and manage this condition.
In order to protect the carpal nerve, the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the wrist tend to tense up. This is one reason why people with carpel tunnel often feel like they can't bend their hands properly, especially in the morning. A physical therapist can show you some exercises to stretch the area and make it more mobile. For example, they may have you use one hand to push back on your wrist, stretching it away from your forearm. Having some stretches to turn to when your carpal tunnel is flaring up can make it a lot more manageable.
Carpal tunnel sometimes develops or worsens because the muscles around your wrist are not strong enough to support it. More strain is then placed on the tendons and ligaments in the wrist. This in turn causes swelling that irritates the nerve. If you're able to strengthen the muscles over time, then they take on more of the load, the tension on the tendons and ligaments is eased, and your carpal tunnel symptoms are likely to subside or go away. A physical therapist can show you specific exercises to strengthen the muscles that are weakest, and these tend to be simple. For example, they may have you squeeze a stress ball in a specific way.
Another thing a physical therapist may do is watch you do some basic tasks, such as typing or writing, and then adjust your posture while you are doing those tasks. Some specific changes to your posture may take pressure off your carpal nerve and help keep the symptoms from getting worse.
If you have carpal tunnel, you owe it to yourself to see a physical therapist before opting for surgery. Stretching, strengthening, and posture changes can really help when guided by a professional.