Carpal tunnel syndrome in physiotherapy

By Vincent, B.Sc. M.Sc.pht

During your lunch hour, you talk with your colleagues. One of your company’s employees says she’s been feeling numbness in her fingers overnight and is reluctant to consult her doctor about it. She thinks this is due to her sleeping position.Having the same kind of symptoms for a few months, you realize that you are not the only one with this problem. Is it possible that this is a coincidence and that each of you adopts a bad sleeping position at night?

Probably not! You may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. This syndrome is caused by irritation, compression or stretching of the median nerve, one of the nerves of the arm that runs through the wrist through an opening called the carpal tunnel. When a nerve is compressed or injured, the electrical current flowing through it travels less efficiently,which can cause numbness or muscle weakness.

Why do I suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome?

The median nerve shares the space available in the carpal tunnel with different muscle tendons. Since there is little room in the carpal tunnel, the slightest increase in the structures passing through it produces compression on the nerve. The main risk factors for developing a carpal tunnel syndrome are the use of vibration tools, manual or repetitive work and working in the cold. For people who work on the computer, a poor posture, an unsuitable office (poor height of the tablet) or repetitive use of the mouse can lead to the development of the syndrome.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually begin with numbness and tingling in the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger, most often at night and in the morning. If the syndrome is not treated, the symptoms can evolve to become constant. Burning sensations can also appear and in more severe cases, compression on the nerve can lead to muscle weakness.

 What should I do if I have carpal tunnel syndrome?

If you suffer from numbness in your hand or arm, the first thing you should do is consult your doctor. He or she will determine the cause of your symptoms. If your doctor confirms the presence of a carpal tunnel syndrome, the next step is to make an appointment with your physiotherapist.

During the treatment sessions, tendon and nerve mobilization techniques will help the structures passing through the carpal tunnel to move better. The mobilization of the wrist bones will help the carpal tunnel better adapt to the movements of the wrist. Your physiotherapist will make sure to advise you on your work posture or on how to perform your actions to reduce symptoms. A specific exercise program to do at home will also help you recover.

Therefore, if you experience recurring numbness in your fingers or hand, do not hesitate to seek help from your doctor and physiotherapist. They will help you eliminate your symptoms and allow you to resume your activities or work safely. You will also be able to advise your colleagues who may be suffering from the same problem as you.