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Carpal Tunnel

By: Sheila Borgen, PT

Have you ever had your hand fall asleep? If you have, you will know what I am talking about; the feeling of pins and needles so annoying that you find yourself shaking your hand violently, trying to wake it up. What about the loss of sensation? Have you ever had your hand seemingly go numb? Or feel like it is on fire? Have you ever felt weakness in your hand and wrist? You may have carpal tunnel syndrome if you have had any of these sensations in one or both hands.

Carpal tunnel syndrome results from increased pressure on the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway at the wrist on the palm side of the hand. As the median nerve travels into the palm, it separates into smaller branches which make their way into the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger (on the thumb side).

Now that we have addressed some of the most noticeable symptoms and touched on the anatomy of carpal tunnel, let's talk about the causes of this painful condition. As mentioned previously, extra pressure on the nerve is to blame for the altered sensations. What causes the increased pressure is the culprit. Some possibilities include inflammation from arthritis, tumors, or infection. In addition, repetitive motions such as typing, driving a car, holding a book, gripping a phone, or sewing can be a source of discomfort. Individuals working on an assembly line may be at higher risk due to the repetitive nature of their job.

With our current understanding of what carpal tunnel feels like and its potential causes, we need to talk about what to do about it:

  1. It's always a good idea to see your doctor for a diagnosis and to ensure no treatment for an emergency condition is necessary.

  2. In moving to conservative treatment, you must select a knowledgeable healthcare provider with the much-needed tools to treat pain. This is where physical therapy fits in. Not only will you learn what NOT to do, but you will learn what TO do.

  3. A physical therapist will help you isolate the root cause of the discomfort.

  4. You can collaborate with the therapist to find alternative movement patterns to decrease irritation.

  5. Your therapist will diligently train you in strengthening exercises, stretching, and nerve-gliding activities to help rid you of carpal tunnel syndrome forever.

  6. While you get your appointment set up with, be sure to check out Age Fit's PT Chat on Carpal Tunnel for some stretches and temporary relief!

In the case of carpal tunnel, as with most pain-driven conditions, seeking a professional to help you overcome your pain can help restore you to pain-free living. No one wants to go through each day being hindered by pain and limitations. So, find your therapist and find your pain-free life!

Sheila is a freelance writer for physical health, mental health, and parenting. She has four exceptional children, one adopted from South Korea. She lives in Alabama with her husband and children. Sheila enjoys cheering her children on at archery tournaments, soccer games, and color guard performances. She has over 24 years of experience as a physical therapist with a special love for the senior population. Learn more about Sheila at

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