Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that causes weakness, tingling and numbness in your hand. It occurs because of pressure that is placed on the median nerve located in the arm. This nerve runs through a location in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. CTS is due to multiple risk factors, including person-specific, environmental, and occupational factors, often resulting from certain repetitive motions such as typing and drawing.
Occupational therapists often assess clients using a method called the carpal compression test. This is achieved by applying firm pressure over the carpal tunnel located in the wrist. The pressure is applied for 30 seconds. Another standard evaluation method is the Phalen's test, where clients fully flex their wrists for one minute. If clients report pain, numbness, or tingling sensations using either technique, it is often indicative of CTS.
Occupational therapists have a pivotal role in enabling people to live healthy and active lives and promote their engagement in daily occupations. If CTS is identified early, treatment can often be quite manageable for some people minimizing its impact on daily life. Occupational therapists (OTs) educate and consult with clients to inform them of the benefits of limiting repetitive wrist movements. For example, an OT and client may collaborate to adapt a client's computer work environment to modify the keyboard and mice's location to minimize wrist flexion and extension when typing. An OT trained in hand therapy may design a custom splint for the client, holding the joint in a neutral position. Splints are often worn at night time to prevent any unwanted wrist flexion and extension while sleeping. Medical management is often another form of treatment. A combined therapy approach that utilized multiple forms of treatment is often more beneficial than a single method.
Reference: Sevy JO, Varacallo M. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. 2020. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448179/