The condition “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome” (CTS) causes pain, numbness and tingling in the arm, wrist, and hand. There are different treatment options that help to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Let’s see what actually this condition is and how orthopedic occupational therapy (OT) helps to treat it.
Why this condition is called carpal tunnel syndrome?
There is a narrow passage in the wrist that is around an inch wide and it is called “carpal tunnel”. This carpal tunnel is surrounded by small bones and ligaments at the base and sides while the top of the tunnel has a strong sheath of tissue. All these bones, ligaments and tissue in the carpal tunnel house and protect the median nerve and the tendons that are responsible for the movement (bending) and feeling of the fingers.
The median nerve is one of the most important nerves in the hand. This nerve runs down the arm and forearm, passes through the passage (carpal tunnel) and ends in the hand. The function of this nerve is to provide feeling to the thumb and fingers (index, middle, and ring except for the little finger). Another function of the median nerve is to control the muscles that are present at the thumb’s base.
When the carpal tunnel becomes narrowed or restricted, it compresses the median nerve or puts pressure on it. This compression or abnormal pressure on the median nerve results in numbness, tingling and pain in the hand, and wrist.
It is unknown what actually causes the carpal tunnel to narrow but heredity, repetitive use of the hand, the position of hand and wrist, pregnancy, and certain medical conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid gland imbalance) are considered as the possible triggers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is also known as median nerve entrapment or median nerve compression.
What are the signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, in most cases, start gradually. At first, many patients notice that their symptoms appear and then go. When the condition becomes severe, the symptoms occur frequently or they may remain for long time periods.
Common symptoms of CTS include:
Numbness and tingling: The patient experience numbness, tingling, pain and burning in hand or fingers (thumb and all the fingers except the little one). Sometimes, there is a feeling of an electric shock in fingers. This sensation usually travels from the wrist up to the arm and it occurs mostly when a patient holds a steering wheel, newspaper or phone. Even, the patient may wake up from sleep due to this sensation.
Weakness: The patient experiences weakness in the affected hand and dropping of objects. This happens due to the numbness in the hand or when the pinching muscles of the thumb (they are controlled by the median nerve) become weak.
When the signs and symptoms become frequent, persistent, and start interfering with the normal routine activities and sleep patterns, the patient should see the doctor because permanent damage to nerve and muscle can happen without any treatment.
How carpal tunnel syndrome treated with orthopedic occupational therapy?
Our orthopedic occupational therapists here in Long Island are experienced and skilled at working with the patients having carpal tunnel syndrome so that the impact of the condition can be minimized on daily life and the patient can easily perform routine activities.
Some of the useful ways that an orthopedic OT treats a patient with CTS include:
Splinting: Custom splint is used that provide rest to the hand and also reduce the swelling. It also reduces any discomfort and pain and prevents the patient from the risk of further complications.
Exercises: Different exercise programs are offered that strengthen the patients’ hand, wrist, and shoulders.
Massage: This treatment option helps to reduce the pain and maximize the movement of the affected hand and fingers.
Minor aids for household tasks: Orthopedic OT helps patients to engage in the daily household tasks by employing different useful gadgets such as kettle tippers, key openers, long-handled shoe horns etc.
Advice on how to perform routine activities while incorporating rest: An occupational therapist, through discussion, finds out the specific types of activities that an individual patient needs to perform in the daily routine and then advises the alternative techniques and tools that a patient can adapt to manage pain and to relieve pressure on the carpal tunnel.
What is the importance of orthopedic occupational therapy?
The role of the occupational therapist in orthopedics is to help patients cope and overcome some of the boundaries due to their complaint or injury. By facilitating the sufferer to work and live autonomously, as well as aiding to recover their well being, it is expected that with the support of the occupational therapist the patient is capable in improving the worth of their life. The therapist will gauge the abilities of the way of life that the patient had previous to the surgery or illness, as well as anticipations of lifestyle post-surgery. Numerous times the therapist will refer with the family of the patient, the orthopedic surgeon in custody of the surgery and other handling physicians to cultivate a program that will top suit the expectations of those involved.
The orthopedic occupational therapist will help the sufferer consenting for them to alter to their physical condition. Their role is to get the sufferer to participate in activities of daily living like dressing and undressing, employment or education and keeping fit, as well as social and entertaining activities. When dealing with sufferers that have had major orthopedic surgery it is authoritative that the patient is able to grow into being independent and be able to cope lifestyle choices and activities with as much backing and direction so that they may do so self-sufficiently later.
The therapist may also support to catch and support in using mobility provisions and wheelchairs. They are also trained to evaluate the home and employment or education source for appropriateness to the sufferer’s needs. Should there need to be commendations and alterations made to any of these environments, the occupational therapist is clever to do this on the patients’ behalf. This could be as simple as wheelchair inclines and wheelchair space access, all the way through to restoration of the exact area.
Orthopedic OT greatly helps in treating the carpal tunnel syndrome so that the quality of life of the patient can be improved. The experienced, skilled, accomplished and American board-certified orthopedic occupational therapists at Hand In Hand Occupational Therapy Of LI provides the customized and effective management treatment plan for carpal tunnel syndrome that helps the patient to live an improved quality of life.