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Do I Have Carpal Tunnel?

Do I Have Carpal Tunnel?

April 3, 2023
By Next Level Physical Therapy

What are the Causes of This Painful Condition?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common disorder caused by pressure on the median nerve that runs from the forearm to the hand via a passageway in the wrist. This passageway called the carpal tunnel, provides sensation to the palm side of the thumb and fingers and nerve signals involving motor function at the base of the thumb. Squeezing or irritation of the median nerve can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Physical therapy is an effective treatment option for carpal tunnel syndrome. Through a comprehensive treatment plan,  physical therapy on an affected hand and wrist can reduce pain and improve flexibility and mobility while strengthening surrounding muscles, tendons and joints to support movement and prevent further injury.

The staff at Next Level Physical Therapy in Santa Clarita, California, understands the importance of effectively and efficiently treating carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact us at (661) 383-9828 to schedule a consultation. Our physical therapists will evaluate your condition, discuss your symptoms and medical history and develop a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs.

What are the Symptoms?

Tingling or numbness in the hands or fingers (except for the little finger) is the most common symptom. That sensation can travel up the arm. Weakness is also common, as many sufferers may drop objects due to numbness or weakness in the thumb’s pinching muscles. Severe symptoms can disrupt sleep and normal activities.

Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Your medical provider will ask you to provide a history of your symptoms, including if you have problems with your little finger. Symptoms in the little finger indicate a problem other than carpal tunnel, as the median nerve doesn’t provide sensation to the pinkie. A physical exam to test the feeling in the fingers and the strength of the muscles includes bending the wrist, tapping or pressing on the nerve can trigger symptoms.

Specific tests can help provide a definitive diagnosis. Tests may include:

  • X-rays to rule out other causes
  • Ultrasound to see if the nerve is compressed
  • Electromyography, where a thin-needle electrode is inserted into specific muscles  to determine damage to the muscles controlled by the median nerve
  • Nerve conduction study, where a small shock passes through the median nerve to determine if electrical impulses slow in the  carpal tunnel

How Do You Get Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal tunnel syndrome has three major causes: overuse caused by repetitive tasks, trauma to the wrist, and diabetes. Excessive fluid retention resulting from pregnancy, some medications and cardiovascular problems, all of which can cause swelling, can also affect the median nerve. Overuse injuries, in particular, have increased dramatically.

Overuse Injuries

This is the top reason people develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Although typing on a computer can cause it, other repetitive motions like using power drills or any action that causes you to grasp repeatedly can lead to constant overextension of the wrist, swelling the carpal tunnel and leading to nerve compression. Some studies have suggested that mouse use and not typing on a keyboard could be the culprit.


Car accidents, falls, or other injuries can cause the wrist to swell. Once this occurs, the nerves become compressed, leading to pain and tingling in the fingers.


You may not think of diabetes as a cause, but when left untreated, diabetes can damage nerves, including the median nerve. Swelling is the body’s natural reaction to such damage, leading to carpal tunnel when the nerve becomes compressed.

Risk Factors

Because women have smaller carpal tunnels, they are more prone to developing the syndrome than men. In addition to diabetes, other chronic illnesses that increase the risk of nerve damage, plus inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the lining of writ tendons, putting pressure on the median nerve. Other factors that can irritate or damage the median nerve include:

  • Medications
  • Obesity
  • Body fluid changes during pregnancy or menopause
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Kidney failure
  • Lymphedema
  • Frequent exposure to vibration or cold

Can Carpal Tunnel Be Prevented?

You can’t prevent the syndrome, yet you can take the following steps to minimize stress on your hands and wrists:

  • Reduce your force and relax your grip when working with tools or computers
  • Take short, frequent breaks to stretch your hands
  • Avoid bending the wrist all the way up or down
  • Improve your posture
  • Make sure you have a comfortable computer mouse
  • Keep your hands warm

How Next Level Can Help

Our physical therapists are movement experts. Among the techniques we use are joint mobilization, soft tissue massage and exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion to prevent further injury and improve performance. We can provide you with recommendations on modifying daily habits to reduce carpal tunnel symptoms. Contact us today at (661) 383-9828 to schedule your appointment and get the relief you need.

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