A pain in the wrist - and what causes it

Tomás Ryan BSc. Ph.Th. MIAPT, Physical Therapist based in Thurles, write about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or wrist pain.

Tomás Ryan BSc. Ph.Th. MIAPT, Physical Therapist based in Thurles, write about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or wrist pain.

Wrist pain is a problem that affects at least one person we know. This week I will discuss a painful wrist condition called Carpal Tunnel syndrome. This condition most commonly affects people between the ages of 30 to 60 years and is characterised by numbness and a tingling sensation into the thumb and fingers.

The Carpal tunnel is made up of bones and ligaments of the wrist which form a tunnel which houses the median nerve and the tendons of the muscles which bend the wrist. The function of the median nerve is to communicate instructions and sensation to the muscles of part of the hand and fingers. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed within the carpal tunnel leading to a burning tingling pain into the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. It can also be accompanied by numbness. The patient can commonly complain of night time pain with further pain moving into the forearm, elbow and shoulder.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can commonly occur with people who repetitively use their wrists and forearms, examples of such hand intensive activities include;

Cycling, where wrist is used to support your hand grip



Racquetball, Handball, Squash, Tennis


Playing musical instruments such as the Violin and Tin Whistle.

Other factors that can cause compression of the median nerve within the Carpal Tunnel include a fracture of the Carpal Bones, Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Diabetes, Infection, Hypothyroidism, and Pregnancy.

Signs & Symptoms of advanced cases Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Include:

Weakness in the hand

Difficulty carrying shopping bags due to a weak grip.

Wasting of the muscles of the thumb and hand

Difficulty with moving fingers.

Management of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be intially treated by applying a splint to the wrist to avoid extreme and painful movements in the wrist. The splint can be applied at night and subsequently during day time if there is little improvement. In addition work practises that cause repetitive motions of the wrist need to be reduced. If inflammation of the wrist is present, ice and heat can be used to aid treatment. In severe cases of the condition, medication and sometimes surgery are needed to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.

Tomás Ryan is a Registered Physical Therapist with The Irish Association of Physical Therapy and is based in Thurles.

Tel No. : 086 3275 753

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