Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition which causes progressive pain and discomfort in the hand and arm due to the compression of a nerve in the wrist. There are numerous factors that may cause carpal tunnel syndrome such as the anatomy of a person’s wrist, method of hand use and underlying health problems.

The carpal tunnel is bound by ligaments and bones and it is a narrow passageway that runs in your wrist about the length of your thumb. The carpal tunnel protects nine tendons that allow you to bend your fingers and the main nerve in your hand. When the nerve gets pinched, numbness, pain, discomfort and hand weakness may result.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be easily treated with appropriate treatment in order to relieve symptoms such as pain and numbness in order to allow you to use your hands and wrists normally again.

Signs and symptoms

Carpal tunnel syndrome usually begins with a mild pain in your wrist that can radiate to your hand and forearm.

Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include:

  • Tingling or numbness. This is usually in the fingers, significantly in the thumb and index finger, ring finger or middle finer but not in the little finger. You may experience a tingling sensation when you are holding the phone, newspaper or the steering wheel or after waking up in the morning. People usually shake their hands or fingers to reduce pain and tingling. Carpal tunnel syndrome can progress if left ignored, causing the numbness feeling to become constant.
  •  Pain. Pain may extend or radiate from your wrist to your arm ad your shoulder or from the wrist to the palm or fingers. This is often caused due to excessive force or repetitive use of the hand or fingers.
  • Weakness. You may have the tendency to drop objects upon holding as the condition progresses.

When to seek medical help

See your doctor if signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome remain persistent, worsen or disrupt sleep patterns or everyday activities. If left untreated, the condition may aggravate causing nerve and muscle damage.

Treatment

People with mild symptoms and vague aching in their hands can relieve symptoms by taking frequent breaks, modifying activities that may trigger pain or applying cold packs to reduce swelling, if any.

The following self-care measures may reduce occurrence of any discomfort due to carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Relax and redcue force. People tend to apply more force than what is needed while performing tasks that require the usage of their hand, such as writing or typing. If your works involves typing or using cash registers, press the keys more softly. For people involves in prolonged writing with their hands, using a bigger pen with a large soft grip adapter may work. Use pens with free-flowing inks so that you do not have to apply too much force while writing.
  • Take frequent breaks. It is important that you give your wrists and hands a break by performing hand stretching and bending exercises. Alternate tasks with work that do not require the use of your hands.
  • Avoid bending the wrist too high or too low. Maintain a relaxed middle position while writing or using your keyboard – keep the keyboard or writing material at elbow height or lower.
  • Make sure your hands are kept warm. You may experience discomfort and stiffness in your hands arms if you work in a cold environment. Wear fingerless gloves if you cannot control the temperature of your working environment.
  • Improve your posture. Improper posture often involves shoulders that bend or roll forward which often cause the neck and shoulder muscles to shorten, thus pinching the nerves in your neck. This can also affect your hands, wrists and fingers.

If the above treatment measures do not work, you may require wrist splints and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to improve symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may also be required.

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