Five Myths About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome got a lot of press in the late 2000s. In an interesting 2009 article by an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery, the author noted that “the media have perpetuated so much fear” about [carpal tunnel syndrome being caused by repetitive computer keyboard use] that “it is easy to see why people make that connection.” Here are a couple of other myths to consider: 

Myth #1: Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive movement of the fingers. 

Incorrect. Instead, it is often the direct pressure on the wrist upon the desk that leads to pressure on the nerve. Even more likely to cause carpal tunnel syndrome is any type of forced grip of an object with a small diameter. An example might be stirring stiff cookie dough while gripping a skinny wooden spoon handle or playing tennis with a racket handle that is too thin. 


Myth #2: Carpal tunnel syndrome makes my fingers go numb

Well, to be fair, this is partially correct. The compression of the nerve can cause loss of sensation to the fingers but only to the thumb, index, and middle fingers. In some cases, one side of the ring finger may be involved as well. The pinky-side of the ring finger and the pinky finger do not receive nerve supply from the median nerve so carpal tunnel syndrome does not cause numbness to those fingers. 


Myth #3: Carpal tunnel syndrome is just in the wrist.

Incorrect. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. That same nerve travels up the arm, through the front of the elbow near the biceps tendon, and then up into the armpit and toward the spine. Compression of the nerve at one point can cause sensitivity and increased pressure all the way up. 


Myth #4: Carpal tunnel is no big deal. Lots of people have it. 

This one is really incorrect. The actual prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome is a lot lower than once thought. Other conditions of the wrist and hand can cause pain in the same area and maybe with the same nerve but not end up being carpal tunnel. If you’ve got a true diagnosis of carpal tunnel, you should consider that there is damage happening to the nerve through compression. That part of the nerve actually gets red and puffy like it is injured – time to do something to make sure that the damage is not permanent. 

Myth #5: Therapy can’t do anything to fix carpal tunnel. 

Incorrect again!. Therapy can do LOADS of things to improve carpal tunnel. First, we’ll look at your overall posture and see if there are other areas of the nerve that are getting compressed and causing pain at the wrist and hand. Then we’ll look at your posture on the computer and any other sustained activities that you do throughout the day. We’ll also take you through protection of the nerve, nerve glides, muscle relaxation, and how to modify your activities to reduce strain on the nerve. 


Therapy can make the difference. Check us out at PT& for more information and to find a location near you.