Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition characterized by numbness, tingling, and/or pain located on the palm side of the wrist, hand, and into the index, third, and half of the ring finger. It’s caused by pressure exerted on the median nerve as it passes through the “tunnel” located in the wrist. The “floor” of the tunnel is a ligament while the “walls” are made up of eight small carpal bones that lock together in the shape of a tunnel. There are nine tendons (tendons attach muscles to bones allowing us to move our fingers), sheaths covering the tendons, blood vessels, and the median nerve that ALL travel through the tunnel, so it’s packed pretty tight. ANYTHING that increases the size of any of these structures or anything “extra” that shouldn’t be there can increase the pressure inside the tunnel, pinch the median nerve, and result in the classic numbness/tingling symptoms that wake people up at night, or interfere with work or driving.
In the Unites States (US), about 1 out of 20 people will develop CTS. Caucasians have the highest incidence rate and women are affected more than men by a 3:1 ratio between ages of 45-60 years old. Only 10% of the reported cases of CTS are individuals under 30 years old. Occupational CTS (as of 2010) affects 8% of US workers with 24% attributed to manufacturing industry jobs. This equates to approximately 3.1 million cases of work-related CTS in 2010. The risk of developing CTS increases with age, diabetes, hypothyroid, pregnancy, taking birth control pills, having an inflammatory arthritis, being obese, pinched nerves in the neck, thoracic outlet, elbow, and others. Therefore, managing CTS requires a thorough evaluation in order to assure accuracy in the diagnosis. With this background information, let’s look at the question, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP CTS? One answer is, don’t age—good luck with that! In addition to keeping your weight under control, exercise can be VERY effective and YOU can be in charge of that process, but your first need to learn the exercises.
Now the question, “…can these exercises prevent surgery?” The answer is “maybe.” They certainly help in some cases, but a multi-dimensional treatment plan is the BEST approach. This includes: