How can physical therapists help treat carpal instability?

carpal instability

Carpal instability occurs when the ligament(s) in the wrist that hold together the eight carpal bones becomes injured. If a carpal ligament is weakened or injured, the wrist can become unstable, meaning you may experience decreased range of motion or ability to bear weight (lift anything) without pain. 

This type of injury can often be treated by physical therapy, though some severe cases may require surgery. After an initial evaluation, your doctor may recommend a diagnostic imaging test (X-ray or MRI) to determine the extent of the damage in your wrist. This imaging will likely be sent to a physical therapist, along with a referral for treatment. Rarely will a patient be recommended for surgery without first seeing a physical therapist for treatment. 

In many states, patients have direct access to physical therapy without needing a physician’s referral. In Michigan, where our Advent Physical Therapy clinics are located, you can go directly to a physical therapist for your imaging and diagnosis. 

What causes carpal instability?

There are a few common instances that can lead to carpal instability, but the most common include:

  • Falling on an outstretched hand, as when attempting to catch yourself or break your fall. The sudden jolt to the wrist and the weight of the body falling on top of the hand can cause the ligaments to stretch or tear.
  • Violent trauma, such as a motorcycle injury, where the hand is not protected.
  • Sports trauma, including contact sports or consistent impact to the wrist, such as a catcher in baseball or softball. 

Most people with carpal instability will experience pain, swelling and tenderness in the wrist during movement. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. 

Physical therapy to help treat carpal instability

Your physical therapist can create a personalized treatment plan specific to your injury and recovery goals, though most plans will include a combination of the following methods:

  • Manual therapy to reduce swelling and pain in the joints.
  • Guided exercises to strengthen the ligaments and muscles surrounding the wrist.
  • Mobility and flexibility training to help restore proper range of motion to the wrist.

If you are ready to find relief from your chronic wrist pain caused by carpal instability, contact our team at Advent Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment. We offer direct access appointments, so you can schedule directly with our team without needing a referral from your physician.