Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Work Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a very common work-relevant condition, often seen within occupational health physiotherapy clinics as improper care can often result in lengthy sickness absence. Inflammation of the carpal tunnel area causes irritation of the structures within the carpal tunnel, in particular the median nerve, causing pain in the hands and wrists, pins and needles and numbness in the hands and weakness, particularly of the thumb. Symptoms can affect one or both hands can be triggered by repetitive activities in the workplace so if you are suffering from work related carpal tunnel syndrome you may need to seek help.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

CTS is multifactorial and so there are a number of factors that can influence your likelihood of developing symptoms, as well as the severity of symptoms, and symptoms usually develop due to a combination of these factors, not just one. These factors can include

  • Static or awkward postures, of the wrist, forearm and upper back (eg due to poor workstation set up, in particular with DSE use)
  • Repeated or excessive use of the finger flexors (eg prolonged or repetitive gripping due to poor manual handling techniques or work habits)
  • Individual factors – being female, increasing age and pregnancy all increase the likelihood of developing pain.
  • Physical wellbeing factors – smoking, diabetes and poor general fitness all increase the likelihood of developing pain and the length of time it takes to recover.
  • Psychological wellbeing factors – stress, depression and anxiety all increase the likelihood of developing pain and even increase the severity of pain and the length of time it takes to recover.

How can I help myself?

The majority of CTS cases can be treated conservatively with physiotherapy treatment and advice, however, your attitude and the actions you take are the most important factors in preventing long-term problems. The most effective way to manage symptoms of CTS are to

  1. Avoid static positions or repetitive activity for long periods of time and keep active. Low impact exercise such as yoga, pilates and swimming can be a good starting point, but also ‘little and often’ stretch breaks throughout your day have been shown to be most effective in reducing the effect of prolonged positions or repetitive activity.
  2. Talk to your GP or pharmacist about what pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication may be right for you. If your pain is controlled, you will be able to maintain more movement, while anti-inflammatory medication (egibuprofen) will reduce inflammation.
  3. Apply an ice pack (wrapped in a towel) to reduce pain and inflammation.
  4. Ensure you are following all manual handling techniques correctly at home and work – keep the load close to your waist, use your legs to lift, lower or push loads as these are the most powerful muscles in the body, and work within your capability.
  5. Report any symptoms you think may be work-related. Firstly, you may have a lawful duty to report your injury. Secondly, by informing your employers they are then able to make any necessary adjustments to your workplace or working practices, either temporarily for yourself on an individual basis, or permanently to improve overall workplace wellbeing.

How can physiotherapy help?  

At Physiotherapy Matters, our physiotherapists can conduct a thorough assessment to confirm a diagnosis and work with you to help you manage work related carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and return to normal activity by

  1. Helping you understand your condition
  2. Helping identify the factors that may have caused or be aggravating your symptoms and providing advice on how to minimise these, including manual handling or safe DSE use.
  3. Developing symptom management strategies so you always feel in control
  4. Completing ergonomic workplace assessments to minimise any work-related risk
  5. Providing an individualised exercise program to improve mobility and strength in order to address symptoms but also to prevent future episodes, including work-hardening
  6. Providing additional manual therapies that may help ease symptoms, such as
  7. Taping to provide postural supportand reduce pressure on the carpal tunnel.
  8. Soft tissue massage to reduce any muscular tension in the surrounding muscles or those of the upper back which may be causing awkward postures.
  9. Mobilisation of the neck and upper back to reduce stiffness
  10. Acupuncture to reduce pain
  11. Referring for additional services if required including
    1. Shockwave therapy treatment to improve healing
    2. Corticosteroid injection to reduce pain and allow exercise

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No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

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