What is carpal instability and how can physical therapists treat it?

Carpal Instability

Is your wrist painful? Does it buckle when you put even a little pressure on it? If you said yes to these two questions, then you may have an issue called carpal instability. 

People with this condition can be looking at a much more difficult time doing normal activities. This is especially true if this wrist condition goes untreated, which can, unfortunately, happen. Physical therapists have the musculoskeletal system know-how to help you learn more about carpal instability. They also offer a variety of treatment options that can help you address this problematic wrist issue. 

Carpal instability: The basics

Let’s go back to biology class for a moment. You may, or may not, remember that the wrist is made up of several bones. There are the ends of your forearm bones, the radius and ulna, and two rows of four carpal bones. All these bones fit together with the precision of a Swiss watch, and they’re kept in place by a web of wrist ligaments. 

Carpal instability typically starts with an injury to one of these wrist ligaments. Often, the injury is the result of catching yourself during a fall. This type of trauma can lead to a sprain or a complete tearing of one of the wrist ligaments, which can upset the wrist’s delicate balance. A fracture in one of the wrist bones can lead to this condition, too. One medical study reports that 30% of people who fracture the wrist end of the radius develop it. Some of the initial symptoms of this wrist issue include: 

  • Wrist pain. 
  • Feelings of instability when placing pressure on the wrist. 
  • Difficulty moving the wrist through its normal range of motion. 

This condition is often difficult to diagnose initially because its symptoms are those of a wrist strain or fracture. However, it can lead to long-term symptoms and issues if it isn’t addressed. People with this condition are more likely to develop wrist arthritis, for instance. They may also develop chronic pain and a progressively stiffer wrist. 

How can a physical therapist help address carpal instability?

Treating your carpal instability will be a bit more complex than treating some pain in your wrist from typing too long. After this issue is identified, a physical therapist can help address your wrist condition. This type of care is the preferred treatment option for patients who still have more than 80% of their wrist range of motion and grip strength. Patients who don’t meet this criteria may need wrist surgery, and physical therapists can help you prepare for and recover from such a surgery. Some of the ways physical therapists can help with this wrist condition are: 

Find help for a variety of wrist conditions at Panther PT

You don’t have to deal with carpal instability all by yourself. Our team at Panther Physical Therapy is prepared to be a staunch recovery partner for people with this wrist condition. We can do a free screening to learn about how this wrist issue is affecting you. Our physical therapists also excel at building customized treatment plans designed to reduce your symptoms and help prevent the long-term complications of your condition. 

Contact our team today for more information about our wrist treatment services or to schedule an initial appointment with us.