If you’ve ever experienced tingling, pain and numbness in your hand and arm, you might have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). It is a common diagnosis but not one that you should take lightly. If carpal tunnel syndrome is left untreated, you can experience nerve damage, weakness in your grip, or even muscle atrophy.
The Symptoms & Causes
Symptoms can occur in both hands but it’s usually more painful in one hand than the other. The most common symptoms of CTS are tingling, weakness, numbness or pain in the hand, wrist, or fingers. These symptoms often occur at night and your sleep can be affected by the pain or numbness.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused by lifestyle factors. Jobs that require consistent, repetitive motion of the hands and wrists are common causes. Numerous household tasks, when performed on a repeated basis, can lead to this condition. Electronic devices like computer keyboards we use every day are killing our wrists and causing more injuries than many sports.
In some cases the cause cannot be found. Sometimes there is a combination of factors such as:
- Arthritis – various types of arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis, can cause inflammation and swelling
- Pregnancy – the hormones associated with pregnancy cause general fluid retention, which can compress the nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome triggered by pregnancy usually goes away soon after birth
- Overuse injury – the tendons in the carpal tunnel can become irritated and inflamed by awkward postures or repetitive hand movements.
- Age – the disease occurs more frequently in older people.
If your condition is caused by a lifestyle factor, your doctor can help you make changes. Depending on your particular situation, it could include taking frequent breaks from your tasks, changing positions when you work, or wearing a wrist brace or splint when you work.
Carpal tunnel syndrome Treatment and Care
Although there aren’t any certain preventative medicines or approaches for treating carpal tunnel syndrome, there are some steps you can take to minimize the stress we put on our hands when we type. For example, you can take exercises like shaking or moving your hands, wrists, and wiggling the fingers.
Here are some useful tips that are effective at preventing carpal tunnel syndrome that you might want to take a moment to read.
- Make sure the height of your chair allows your forearms to remain level with your keyboard at all times. This helps reduce the distance your wrists have to flex while you’re typing.
- Never rest your wrists on the desk as this strains the muscles considerably.
- Consider getting an ergonomic keyboard so that your typing feels more natural and less strained.
- Take a break from typing every 10-15 minutes. Rotate your wrists and do some simple hand exercises to keep them limber and nimble.
- Simple medications can help relieve pain. These medications include anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.
Natural treatments, or home remedies, work for some people but not for others. If you are hoping to avoid surgery, you may want to try these methods: yoga, weight loss, exercises that stretch the affected wrist, and applying heat or ice to the wrist, may relieve your symptoms.
Consult Your Doctor
While you can buy splints for your wrist or take pain relievers, your best course of action is to see a doctor. Your doctor might recommend specific stretches and exercises you can do on your own, guided rehabilitation, or even surgery. Nowadays, the surgery is minimally invasive and it has a rapid recovery time for most people. In all honesty, some inconvenience isn’t the worst situation – if you don’t address CTS, you can lose function in your hand due to permanent nerve damage and muscle atrophy.
Not all hand pain can be associated with carpal tunnel syndrome so please consult a hand surgeon if you experience these or any other symptoms. While surgery may not be your first choice, there are reasons your physician may recommend it.