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Is Carpal Tunnel Making Simple Tasks Almost Impossible? These Three Physical Therapy Tips Are Game Changers!

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS is tricky to treat if you don't understand where it's coming from. And to understand that, we have to look at nerve and their behaviors.

Nerves run all through your body like tiny little wires and centralize in your spinal cord and finally the brain. The nerves that run through your arms, hands and fingers originate from the neck region of your spinal cord, or cervical spine. There are quite a few nerves that originate from this area but the one we'll be focusing on (the one that's often responsible for CTS) is the median nerve.

The nerve's job is to send information to the brain to be interpreted. Then the brain can send back a movement. Your sensory nerves will take in that you are touching something hot, and it'll send that to the brain. The brain will discover that the hot thing you are touching will hurt you if you touch it too long and send back a signal to your motor nerves to take your hand off that thing. So imagine again that these little nerves are like wires. If you step on or kink a cord, it can make your product malfunction. The same happens in the body. If something is causing this nerve to misfire, it can cause a bunch of weird symptoms.

Now, what exactly is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? CTS occurs when the median nerve (which travels from your neck, under the collarbone, through your forearm and carpal tunnel bones into your fingers) gets compressed somewhere. Even though it may seem like the bulk of your symptoms (stiffness, pain, pressure, numbness, etc.) are happening in your wrist, the nerve could be compromised anywhere from your neck all the way through your fingers.

So what can you do about it to help alleviate the symptoms? Or even better, prevent them altogether?

  1. Sitting Posture: Posture is the number one priority when it comes to carpal tunnel. How you position or hold your body, especially while sitting, is going to influence what kind of compression you have on your nerves. You should always sit with your feet firmly planted, activating your core and your hips should be slightly higher than your knees. Lean forward slightly so that your weight isn't directly on your sit bone but rather toward the upper part of your thighs. To get your shoulders in the correct posture, drop your arms so they are hanging by your side. Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and rotate your palms out so they are facing in front of you. Then drop your shoulder again. Last, slightly tuck your chin and you should be all set!

  2. Cervical Impact: The point of this is to improve dynamic stability. Cervical instability can jeopardize the health of your nerves (since that's where this pesky nerve is peeking out of your spinal cord). To stabilize your neck, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth to activate your neck and face muscles. Then make a fist as a perch at a 90-degree angle under your chin and apply a downward pressure with your chin into your fist. Hold it for up to a minute and you should feel the muscles in the front and back of your neck engage simultaneously. Once you're an expert at this, try it in different planes by rotating your head 5 degrees at a time and try the same thing in that direction.

  3. Upper Extremity Nerve Flossing: The goal of this exercise is to free up anywhere that nerve (or wire) might be stuck as it travels through your arm. Watch this video below for exact instructions. This exercise is provocative so listen to your body and its limits. If you feel any painful symptoms, you're going too far!

Now, we understand a little bit more about nerves and a few things to be on the lookout for when you do begin to feel carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. It's important to remember that although you are feeling the symptoms in the wrist or hand area, the root of the problem can arise anywhere along that median nerve path.

Remember, we heal smarter, not harder!

Dr. Preston Nguyen


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