Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition where the Median Nerve that runs down the arm and through the wrist (carpal tunnel) is compressed causing symptoms such as pins and needles, pain and numbness usually at night. This can occur due to trauma to the hand or wrist leading to inflammation in the carpal tunnel, or enlargement of the contents of the tunnel such as blood vessels, tendons or the median nerve.
Although there are no statistics on the number of CTS surgeries performed in Australia, it is reported that in the US more than 500,000 people undergo surgeries for the disease. It is reported that 18% of workers developing the condition lose their job within 18 months – it is a huge driver of workers’ compensation claims, lost productivity and disability.
A recent study has shown that physiotherapy and surgery were equally effective at improving pain and function at medium & long-term follow up. However, physio led to better outcomes in the short term.
Another study compared physio using manual therapies such as desensitization techniques for the central nervous system to surgery. Both physio and surgery had similar effectiveness at improving self-reported levels of symptom severity, function and pinch-tip grip force which is a clinical measure of hand and grip strength.
So the evidence is proving once again that surgery isn’t the only option and physiotherapy should be your first line of treatment for this condition. Once diagnosed by your physio, treatments will be tailored to address mobilisation of the wrist bones, nerve gliding exercises to improve movement and decrease inflammation of nerves that travel through the tunnel and strengthening exercises to regain lost grip strength.
Below are links to the studies referenced in this blog. If you have any questions, or are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms please don’t hesitate to contact us.