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Is it really Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Many computer workers complain of wrist pain from typing excessively. Is that pain Carpal Tunnel or is it possible something else? Unfortunately, many cases of wrist and/or forearm pain are automatically diagnosed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) without truly examining all possible causes of the pain. Not to say that CTS is not a common reality amongst many computer workers and those who work with their hands. However, CTS must be distinguished from Pronator Teres Syndrome for a positive resolution to occur. Both syndromes cause similar pain, but must be treated differently to achieve the desired results.

Pronator Teres Syndrome describes a condition where the Pronator Teres muscle in the forearm becomes over-used and scar tissue, adhesions, or muscular restrictions entrap the Median Nerve, causing forearm, wrist and hand symptoms similar to CTS. This nerve runs between the two heads of the Pronator Teres muscle and may become entrapped. When your forearms are in the typing position and performing key strokes, you are constantly activating the forearm flexors and pronator teres, which leads to overuse strain of those muscles and the possible nerve entrapment.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Decreased sensation over the pad of the thumb (Thenar eminence) distinguishes pronator syndrome from CTS because the sensory branch of the median nerve that innervates the thenar eminence does not pass through the Carpal Tunnel. This is the key finding to look for when evaluating someone who has suspected CTS. Unfortunately, when the pain is misdiagnosed as CTS, the incorrect treatment protocols are rendered and no results are achieved. Even worse, the next step is Carpal Tunnel surgery and if it really isn’t CTS, then the surgery often fails.

active release

The good news is that both conditions, if correctly diagnosed, can be treated with conservative techniques such as A.R.T® or Graston Technique®. If you are having hand/wrist/forearm symptoms, make sure to get it correctly evaluated and treated before the condition worsens.