Don’t Lose Your Grip On Life (Carpal Tunnel Part 2)
Posted on August 23 2016
In a recent post, we discussed carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors and symptoms. This conversation would not be complete without also discussing how hand therapy can decrease the likelihood that you’ll need surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
Surgery is NOT the only option for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Physical and occupational therapies are conservative and safe alternatives to surgery. In many cases, CTS can be adequately treated by a physical therapist or specially certified occupational therapist, thus removing the need for surgery altogether. During your visit, your therapist will educate you on the importance of:
- changing wrist positions and ways to avoid prolonged positioning
- proper posture in the upper back and neck
- safe handling of sharp utensils and tools if sensory limitations are detected
- taking adequate “stretch breaks” during work and other daily activities
Those with CTS are wise to seek the assistance of either a physical or occupational therapist to accurately diagnose and treat the problem. Both of these experts are trained in the function and movement of the body and are able to properly identify the cause and treatment for CTS.
During your first appointment, be prepared to explain your symptoms in as much detail as possible and also describe what makes the symptoms worse. Your therapist can demonstrate and help you learn:
- exercises designed to increase the strength of muscles in your hand, fingers and forearms
- stretching techniques that will improve the flexibility of your wrist, hand and fingers
- how using heat and cold treatments can help alleviate pain
- how enlarging the handles of tools and utensils can improve grip comfort
- ways to minimize vibration (gloves, wraps) if vibration is a contributing factor
Physical and Occupational Therapy Following Surgery
In some extreme situations, CTS may require a surgical procedure to release the band of tissue that is causing pressure on the median nerve. If surgery is required, it’s important to seek post-surgical therapy to help restore strength and mobility to the wrist as well as to appropriately identify and change habits that contributed to the CTS in the first place. In addition to the items listed above, post-surgery treatments for CTS may also include:
- Tips on how to minimize scarring and flexibility
- A worksite visit or simulation to optimize postures and positions
Finding the Right Therapist For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
All licensed physical and occupational therapists are educated and experienced to treat a wide range of conditions, including CTS. However, you may want to consider working with a therapist who possesses a certification as a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) and has hands-on experience:
- treating people with musculoskeletal disorders of the arm and hand
- in ergonomics (understanding the fit between a person and their equipment) and work-site evaluations (or simulations)
Two things to keep in mind when looking for a therapist for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
- seek recommendations from friends and family, as well as other trusted care providers
- when calling to set up an appointment, ask if they’ve worked specifically with CTS
If you are tormented by carpal tunnel syndrome, Fit Physical Therapy can help you regain your grip on life. Contact us today!
Visit us online to schedule an appointment or call 303-409-2133.
Yours for optimal hand function,
Betty Augustat, OT, CHT (Westminster/Westminster Fitness Center)
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