Nice to meet you. I usually don't post on the CTS board, but your post caught my eye.
I'd like to offer you my experience if I may. I too have mild CTS, dx'd a couple years back from years of waitressing. My right hand is worse than my left hand (I'm right handed of course!). It's good that your girlfriend is going to PT, that will be the best thing for her. She will be doing strengthening exercises that will limit her swelling and therefore decrease nerve damage. Also, she should be given hand splints by her therapist. If not, go buy them. Any good pharmacy or store that sells health aids. You can ask your pharmacist or your doc where to get them. The best splints are the ones with the metal splint inside the cover. You should get the lace up or velcro splints, but it is important to get the ones that have the metal (the metal is soft enough to bend to better fit the hand) in them that can be removed so you can wash the cover. The splints should be worn every night while she sleeps. I was told this by my therapist, "wear 'em every night!". Of course I skip nights. Also she should wear them whenever she is going to be using her hands where they will be used to "support" something that weighs more than her hands. Like a book, or she needs to use them when she is using her hand for any length of time, as long as they allow her to be functional. There are other braces that she can use while typing, these are made out of elastic or nylon. They slip over the hand allowing the fingers and thumb to be exposed and they have an extra amount of material that covers the wrist area. The nylon/spandex hand "splints" have a velcro closer that wraps around the wrist. You want the material to be secure around her wrists but not so tight they leave impressions. This way she can use the computer or hand write easier than with the metal supported splints. Also, the PA at my pain clinic used to work for an Orthopedic doc and she told me a little trick that her Ortho doc taught her to pass on to her CTS patients. You take a towel, not a bath towel, but like a facial or hand towel, and you wrap the towel around the elbow area while the arm is straight, making sure that the elbow is in the middle of the towel. Kinda like you would wrap it in an ace bandage. Okay so now you have this towel wrapped around her arm. Now use some kind of thick tape, like duct tape and secure the towel just enough that your girlfriend cannot bend her elbow, but not too tight of course. Just secure enough so that she can't bend her elbow and so that the towel will not fall off. You do this at bedtime only. Reason? I'm sure you are thinking, huh? Well, my PA said that while you sleep you bend your arm which causes the circulation to be cut off and the nerves compressed therefore causing CTS to worsen. Does your girlfriend wake in the morning complaining that her hands are numb or sore? This is why. Using the towel will keep her arm in the same position and won't let it bend so the nerves aren't pinched. This is the very same reason to wear those metal splints while she is sleeping. They keep her hands in their natural position and not curled or bent so that the nerves are pinched.
And yes, CTS will progressively get worse over time. But going to PT and doing her little finger exercises will help prolong her need for surgery, as will the splints and the towel trick. Keeping her hands and wrists supported are important as is keeping her from pinching those nerves. The neurologist that did my CTS test told me that CTS is caused by compression on the nerves either originating in the shoulder or in the elbow. Did her doc tell her where the nerve compression originated? Most common is from the elbow. She also needs to make sure she pays close attention to any increase in numbness, loss of hand function, loss of strength in her hands, or if her pain level increases, and tell her doctor.
So go get those splints (both kinds), do the towel thingie and I wish her luck on her finals. I remember how stressful finals were! I went to college in my late 20's, before there were computers. They were called "Word Processors" back then!
I couldn't afford one, so I hand wrote all my term papers and then typed them out once I perfected the handwritten draft! It was awful! No wonder I have CTS. Then, I graduated with a BS in Management only to find out, I sucked at Managing! I am good at delegating though! I'm a worker bee, but I like being the Queen Bee, but I would rather have a Manager tell me what to do, that way, if something bad happens they get blamed! LOL Besides, I'm not that tolerant of some folks and I'd be telling people "to take their little purses or whathaveyou and go home" so much I'd end up having no employees.
So yeah, I suck at it. But I'm a dern good waitress! It's my calling for sure, but do to a lot of illness and debiltating back problems I can no longer do what I love. I can't do much of anything really. So I admire your girlfriend, finishing school and just starting out in the work place. How exciting, for both of you! I wish you luck and happiness.
Oh and about meds. I use Aleve, it seems to work the best since you can't trust those prescription anti-inflammatories. I was recently given a prescription for an anti-inflammatory med called Arthotec and it supposedly doesn't have the nasty side effects the others do. But I still use Aleve, works for me.
Again, good luck and I hope I helped you some. Sorry the post is so long, mine usually are. I just like to make sure I cover all the bases when I try and share information.
Here's wishing you and your girlfriend a good spirit,