Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

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This leaflet covers the diagnosis of your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), the possible treatments, and how you can help yourself to ease the symptoms, as this is a health  problem that can be remedied.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression (squashing) of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, at the base of the hand and thumb. The nerve gets compressed if the carpal tendons (there are nine around the median nerve) become swollen, possibly after a fracture, repetitive strain from typing, guitar playing, similar action or from another condition, such as pregnancy.


Symptoms and treatments

It is relatively common in the UK, with about three per cent of men and five per cent of women being affected at some stage, mostly after 30 years of age.

While the symptoms can disappear on their own, often they can be relieved by exercise and by wearing a splint at night (so that the neutral position of the wrist in the splint reduces the compression).

When symptoms are mild or moderate, then corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory medicine)     injection can help.  There is no evidence that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can benefit in any way. Speak to your GP about pain control options.

For some people, symptoms continue and the only option is for  surgery. Surgery cannot undo the nerve damage that has already been done, so complete resolution of symptoms is not guaranteed. There are two methods available are open surgery, which leaves a long thin scar along the palm side of the hand or wrist or keyhole surgery, which leaves three or so short scars.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS):

  • Can be painful.
  • Can develop slowly, as a result of trauma or repetitive strain.
  • May be eased if you relieve the compression of the nerve by wearing a splint, especially at night.
  • May improve if you continue bending your wrists and maintain your strength through regular daily exercise, and if it is protected from further repetitive strain injury.
  • May be treated with a corticosteroid injection.
  • You may require surgery.

Exercises to help ease your condition

Exercises to strengthen and move the muscles are very important, and work well, especially for those who have developed carpal tunnel syndrome through repetitive strain injuries that involve the hands and fingers.


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Self referrals

You can self-refer into community physiotherapy services. Simply call 0207 871 0545 to make an appointment. Your initial contact with one of our chartered physiotherapists may be over the phone, where you will either be given advice on appropriate treatment, or a face-to-face consultation will be arranged.

Should you wish to speak to your GP first, simply make an appointment with your local practice. If your GP refers you, one of our patient care advisers will contact you within 48 hours to arrange an appointment.

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