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NJ Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Info

5 Stretches to Relieve the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Stretches

It is no secret that as a society we have become accustomed to doing a lot of writing, texting and typing in our daily lives. As much as we think that it has little to no effect on us, it can. In fact, constantly putting a strain on both our wrists and hands can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Luckily, there are many different stretches and exercises that can be done to help alleviate the pain, as well as prevent future symptoms. If you start feeling symptoms of pain, numbness, or tingling in the hand, wrist or elbow, try out some of these stretches:

1. Finger Extension

This simple and easy exercise can be done anywhere. With your arms extended straight out in front of your body, begin with your hands in a fist position. Slowly begin to open your hand until your fingers are pointed straight out, then spread them apart from each other as far as you can. Return to the starting position and repeat for 5 to 10 minutes, doing this multiple times a day.

2. Wrist Bends

Wrist bends are another great stretch to help relieve your pain. Begin with one arm extended out in front of your body along with your hand and fingers, your palm should be facing the floor. With your other hand, slowly start to lift your out-stretched hand by its fingertips and softly pull the hand upward toward your body. Once your hand is in the upright position, hold this position for about 30 seconds and then release, switch to your other hand after. Repeat this stretch as needed throughout the day.

3. Wrist Lifts

This stretch is a little more involved, as it requires a lightweight dumbbell. Sitting down at a desk or table, rest your forearm on the table while your hand is hanging over the edge. With the dumbbell in hand, slowly lift your wrist until it is level with the table while also keeping your arm flat on the table. Do this motion about 10 times, once a day.

4. Thumb to Finger

Possibly the simplest stretch yet are these finger exercises. Begin with your hand and fingers stretched straight out. Using your thumb as a meeting point, bring each finger one-by-one to the thumb, making the shape of an O. Do this about 5 to 10 times on each hand and repeat as needed throughout the day.

5. Stress Ball

Hold a stress ball in your hand with your palm upright, this stretch is as easy as squeezing the ball and releasing, repeating this motion about 10 times.

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Why Should I Exercise For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is an EXTREMELY common condition that can affect anyone at any age. In fact, there’s a strong probability that up to 50% of the people reading this today have or have had symptoms of CTS at some point in time and 10% or more have been treated for it! We have recently discussed various non-surgical treatment approaches for managing CTS but the question of WHY exercises should be included in that program remains a mystery to many!

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: More “Fun Facts!”

CarpalTunnelDid you know that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) can affect anyone? None of us are immune to developing CTS as roughly 1 out of 20 of us will develop CTS in our lifetime! This month, let’s look at some of the risk factors for developing CTS.

  1. Race: Caucasians carry the greatest risk of developing CTS.
  2. Gender: Women are three times more likely than men to develop CTS. This may be because female wrists are smaller and shaped a little differently than male wrists, but hormonal differences are probably the most important reason for this variance.
  3. Pregnancy: Up to 62% of pregnant women develop CTS. This is thought to be due to the excess fluid retention that normally occurs during pregnancy and most likely stems from the elevation in hormone levels that NORMALLY occurs during pregnancy. The prevalence in the first, second, and third trimesters is 11%, 26%, and 63%, respectively, thus supporting the fact that the risk increases with the length of the pregnancy. Though CTS usually resolves after giving birth, symptoms can continue for as long as three years following delivery!
  4. Birth Control Pill (BCP): The use of BCPs increases CTS risk due to an increase in hormonal levels similar to the CTS risk increase during pregnancy.
  5. Occupational: Workers in highly repetitive, hand-intensive occupations (such as line work, sewing, finishing, meat processing, poultry or fish packing) have a higher rate of developing CTS.
  6. Injury to the wrist or hand: An obvious example is a wrist fracture from a slip and fall, sports injury, or blunt trauma like a car accident. When there is a direct pinch on the median nerve, nerve damage can occur quite quickly, and as a result, the onset of symptoms can be very fast. Less obvious injuries, which usually have significantly slower onsets, include repetitive motion injuries, often referred to as “cumulative trauma disorders” and include a group of conditions such as tendonitis, sprain/strain, bursitis, and other types of soft tissue injuries.
  7. Certain conditions: Nerve damaging conditions that can cause CTS include diabetes and alcoholism. Other conditions that can contribute and/or cause CTS include menopause, obesity, thyroid disorders, kidney failure, and more.
  8. Inflammatory conditions: These include several types of arthritis such as rheumatoid, lupus, and others. Osteoarthritis is technically NOT an “inflammatory” condition but it can cause CTS by compressing the median nerve via a bone spur formed within the carpal tunnel.
  9. Faulty work stations: A job site has A LOT to do with whether or not a person develops CTS. Though jobs that require fast, repetitive movements pose the greatest risk (see #5 above), other work-related factors that may be controllable can also significantly contribute to the development of CTS. Some of these include the shape of tools such as screwdriver handles shaped like a gun (pistol) which allow for better alignment of the wrist than a “normal” straight screwdriver handle. Another is a power tool that may have too much vibration or torques too hard at the end of a cycle. A handle that is too cold/hard (e.g., metal handle) or that may be too large for the worker’s hand is an additional factor to consider. Positioning the work so that the wrists can stay straight vs. bent can be VERY helpful. In fact, if some of these “ergonomic” factors are not fixed, CTS can be next to impossible to remedy. Also, poor posture in the back, neck, and the rest of the body can result in compensatory faulty postures elsewhere. Look in a mirror and poke your chin out towards the mirror. Now look at your shoulders. See how they roll forward and feel the strain in your upper back and neck? Keep your chin tucked in, NOT out. This can make a BIG difference in your posture!

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome “Facts”

CarpalTunnelWHAT is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)? CTS occurs when pressure is applied to the median nerve which travels from the neck, through the shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm, and through the carpal tunnel where the “pinch” is located. The median nerve innervates most of the palm of the hand, the thumb, the index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring finger. The carpal tunnel is made up of eight little bones in the wrist that form the arch and a ligament that forms the floor. There are nine muscle tendons, the median nerve, as well as blood vessels that travel through the tunnel.

WHAT are the symptoms of CTS? The “classic” symptoms include burning, itching, tingling, and/or numbness of the second to fourth fingers with the need to shake or “flick” the fingers to “wake up the hand.” When present long enough, or when the pressure is hard enough on the nerve, weakness in the grip occurs and accidental dropping of tools, coffee cups, and so on can occur. Pressure on the nerve increases when the wrist is bent backwards or forwards, especially for long time frames and/or when the wrist is moving in a fast, repetitive manner with jobs like carpentry using vibrating tools, a screw driver, hand drill, a hammer, line production work, waitressing, and so on. Often, symptoms are first noticed at night, as we tend to sleep with our wrists bent and tucked under our chin or neck. Symptoms can also occur during the day, especially when driving or when performing repetitive work. Difficulties buttoning a shirt, making a fist, grasping small objects and/or performing manual tasks are common complaints of CTS.

WHAT are some causes of CTS? CTS is most commonly caused by a combination of factors that result in swelling of the tendons that travel through the carpal tunnel. This includes over working the arm and hand in any of the jobs described above, but it is more likely to happen when conditions that create generalized swelling occur. Some of these conditions include trauma (like a sprained wrist), hypothyroidism, an over-active pituitary gland, during menstruation or pregnancy, menopause, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, mechanical wrist problems, repetitious work (work stress), or the repeated use of vibratory hand tools. It is also possible to develop a cyst (like a ganglion) or a fatty tumor within the tunnel. CTS is also more common with obesity, but sometimes, no logical cause can be identified!

WHO is at risk of developing CTS? Women are three to four times more likely to develop CTS. This may be because of the hormonal aspects described above and/or the relative smaller wrist, which results in a smaller carpal tunnel. There's also an increased risk of CTS in people over the age of 50. Other at risk individuals include diabetics, people with hormonal imbalances (taking birth control pills, pregnancy, hypothyroid, etc.), and people who work on assembly lines.

How is CTS diagnosed? EARLY diagnosis and treatment is KEY to a successful outcome! The physical exam includes assessing the structures of the neck and entire upper extremity, as the pinch is often in more than one place. A blood test for thyroid disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis is also practical. Other tests that may help us diagnose CTS can include and EMG (nerve test) and/or x-ray/MRI. Next month, we’ll discuss treatment and prevention!

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs. If you, a friend, or family member requires care for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, we would be honored to render our services.