What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a numb feeling and tingling felt in the hand and arm usually caused by a strained nerve in the wrist. The median nerve is located on your palm (also known as the carpal tunnel). The median nerve is in charge of providing a feeling of stimulus to your thumb, index finger, long finger, and some portions of the ring finger. It directs the stimulus to the muscle that leads to the thumb. Carpal tunnel syndrome can happen in one or both of your palms.
Bulging inside your wrist can result in the contraction of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It often results in numb feelings, weakness, and tingling on the areas near the thumb.
A skilled medical expert usually makes treatment and diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel syndrome, and it often requires diagnosis before treatment can commence. It sometimes requires lab tests or imaging, but on very rare occasions, and it usually heals within months if properly attended to.
There are some ways to test if you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, some of which are listed below.
Wrist Flexion Test or Phalen’s Test
To perform this test, the patient places their elbow on a table and allows the wrist to fall forward limply. Someone suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome would have a numb feeling and a tingling sensation within a minute.
This could also be used to detect Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This test is quite simple as it requires testing the perception in your fingers and the resilience of the muscles of the hand.
Simple examination such as bending the wrist, tapping on the nerve, or simply pressing on the nerve can activate symptoms in different individuals.
Admittedly, X-rays are of little help in diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but it is often recommended to erase the suspicions of other diseases such as Arthritis and or Fractures. Therefore, doctors often tell the patient to go for an X-ray of the affected wrist.
This is a test used to gauge the compact electrical flows generated in muscles. To perform this examination, the doctor injects a thin, needle-like electrode into a specific muscle to analyze the electrical activity when the muscles contract and rest. This test also plays the dual role of checking the damage done to the muscles under the influence of the median nerve.
Nerve conduction study
In contrast to Electromyography, dual electrodes are fastened to your body. Little electric shocks are conducted through the median nerve to assess the speed and activity of electric impulses in the Carpal Tunnel.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The ache felt in your carpal tunnel is caused by an increased burden on your wrist and the median nerve. Inflammation often results in swelling. The usual cause of inflammation is usually a hidden medical ailment that results in bulges in the wrist and often restricts blood’s smooth flowing and circulation. Some of the medical disorders associated with carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Fluid retention from pregnancy or menopause
- High blood pressure
- Autoimmune ailments include rheumatoid arthritis
- Fractures or trauma to the wrist.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome would get worse if the affected wrist is overused and strained continually without rest. Using the affected wrist(s) to perform repetitive activities would only increase the swelling and squeezing of the median nerve. This may be due to:
- Setting of your wrists when using your laptop keyboard or the mouse.
- Continued exposure to vibrations and pulses from handling power tools and machinery.
- Any continual movement that overstrains your wrists, like playing the piano or typing.
As compared to men, women are three times more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome. It is largely diagnosed in them between the ages of 30 and 60. Specific conditions increase your risk of having carpal tunnel syndrome, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
Some lifestyle activities may increase carpal tunnel syndrome, including smoking, increased salt consumption, a stationary lifestyle, and a high body mass index (BMI).
Jobs that entail continual wrist activity similarly contain a high risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. These jobs comprise of:
- Assembly line work
- Keyboarding and typing occupations
- Construction works.
People who are working in the above occupations have a higher chance of having carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel
The indications are usually found along the nerve path because of the contraction of the median nerve. Your hand may occasionally “fall asleep” and become numb, and you might unknowingly drop objects. Whenever you wake up in the morning and feel numb, and there might be some shock-like sensations that move up your shoulder. During the day, your signs might erupt if you happen to be carrying something while your wrist is in a bent position, like when you are driving your car or reading a book.
Further symptoms include:
- Feeling of numbness, tingling, and little pain in the areas around the thumb and the first three fingers of your hand.
- Discomfort and burning sensations that move up your arm.
- Frequent discomfort around the wrist that deters you from sleeping.
- Occasional frailty in the muscles of the hand.
In the early stages of the disorder, jerking your hands might relieve you and help you feel better. However, as the condition progresses, simply shaking your hands would not help you get rid of the numbness and shock-like sensations.
When carpal tunnel syndrome gets dangerous, your grip might lose its firmness because the muscles in your hand would decline and wane. You will also experience more discomfort and muscle spasms.
At this point, your median nerve won’t function as it should due to the excess burden and discomfort around it. This often results in:
- Slower nerve stimulus
- Increased numbness in your fingers
- Limited strength and coordination, especially the capacity to perform pinching actions with the thumb.
Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Common Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome
It should be treated as soon as the symptoms surface. In the beginning phases, below are some simple things that you do by yourself to relieve yourself of the discomfort:
- Take additional breaks during work to rest your hands and relax your fingers.
- Stay away from performing tasks that worsen your symptoms.
- Make use of ice packs to lessen bulging.
Below are some of the common therapies for carpal tunnel syndrome:
Wear a brace at night
A great number of people sleep with their wrists bent. If the wrist is not placed in a straight posture, the burden within the carpal tunnel spikes up and reaches a high level. Thus, when the wrist is kept in a bent posture for long durations of time, like when we are asleep, the nerve is compressed, making the symptoms erupt in the night. The easiest way to correct this is to utilize an over-the-counter wrist brace. This would help keep the wrist straight and help train you to keep your wrist straight while asleep.
Hand and Wrist stretch
Engaging the help of an expert with proficiency in hand therapy who can help you with exercises that can easily be done in the comfort of your home. Nerve and tendon gliding workouts have been known to be beneficial and effective in treating carpal tunnel syndrome. Other simple exercises such as finger and wrist stretches involve pulling the fingers and the wrist into a stretch and holding that stretch for 20 seconds, then loosening them. This activity can be continually done every day for 5 mins per session and can be done about 2-3 times a day. This activity should not be uncomfortable or performed with too much force.
Physical activity and exercise
Research has shown a decrease in carpal tunnel syndrome among people who participate in one exercise or the other. Vigorous activities such as jogging, swimming, athletics, cycling, or just taking short walks around the neighborhood benefit carpal tunnel.
Obese, overweight or people with high Body Mass Index (BMI) have been a powerful cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Losing weight reduces the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Embarking on a weight loss journey is not an easy task, so make sure to talk to a weight loss coach or a professional nutritionist before starting.
Decrease tobacco use (if possible, quit tobacco use)
Nicotine has been a chemical that causes addiction, and it is ever-present in products made from tobacco. Continuous tobacco use tightens and narrows arteries and causes a reduction in blood flow through the body. If the blood flow is restricted in a specific part of the body, the nerves in that part of the body become more sensitive to injuries. Quitting tobacco use may decrease the risk of having carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, and it is also good for your general health.
Progression of Treatment
Your doctor, specialist, or medical expert would recommend the best treatment based on the following factors:
- Your general health and previous health record.
- The degree of damage within your wrist
- Your level of tolerance to certain methods, treatments, and pills.
- The degree of damage if it is not immediately attended to.
- Your viewpoint or choice.
Further treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome includes:
Splinting your hand
This treatment keeps the hand immobilized and lessens the nerves’ contraction inside the carpal tunnel.
These types of medications may either be oral or inserted directly into the carpal tunnel area. They help in reducing the swelling.
This lowers pressure on the nerves in the carpal tunnel.
A change of worksite
Switching your computer keyboard or making other efficient and comfortable modifications can help alleviate the symptoms.
Exercise for stretching and strengthening purposes can be beneficial for individuals whose symptoms have gotten better. These exercises should be done under the supervision of a physical activity professional.
Safest Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The following treatment is considered safe as they don’t require many technicalities before they can be performed:
- Put the damaged hand or wrist in a state of rest for at least two weeks.
- Utilize anti-vibration tools if you have to handle a piece of vibrating machinery.
- Make sure a wrist splint or brace helps relax the median nerve.
- Occasionally perform some gentle hand, wrist, and finger stretching exercises and workouts.
- Occasionally massage the wrists, palms, and backs of the hand.
- Always wear work gloves to safeguard the hand and wrists whenever you are at work.
- Occasionally apply heat to the wrist to reduce pain.
How to prevent or avoid carpal tunnel syndrome from getting worse
How to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome
- Uphold a healthy lifestyle: quit smoking as it restricts blood flow and worsens CTS. Keep your weight at a balance; try to lose weight if you are overweight.
- Don’t sleep in positions that would put your wrists in a bent posture.
- Always keep your hands warm to avoid the paralysis of your wrist.
- Lighten your grasp when you are working with your hands.
- Take short breaks intermittently to rest your hands or change your position.
- Develop your body posture and make it better.
How to keep CTS from getting worse
- Stay away from machinery with vibration.
- Stay away from jobs related to extreme tugging, pulling, pushing, or twisting actions.
- Take breaks from repetitive tasks.
- Perform stretching exercises.
Working with CTS
While carpal tunnel syndrome does not affect your mental activity, it can be stressful to work with it since the hands are needed to perform tasks at work. Listed below are steps to take to protect yourself at work:
Be aware of your risks
Some particular jobs have a higher risk percentage of developing CTS than other jobs. If you are aware that your job has a risk of developing CTS, take precautions.
Don’t rush back to work as quickly as your doctor certifies you as okay. Take a rest for at least a week to further relax your hands.
Perform exercises regularly
There are numerous exercises you can do to keep your wrists well-toned and healthy. Discuss with an expert what exercises would be beneficial for you. Full-body workouts such as yoga also help.
Always put on specially-designed gloves
Specially designed gloves aid in keeping your wrist stable either while working or sleeping.
Exercises for Recovery
This workout helps to stretch the muscles of the inner forearm.
This activity aids in stretching the muscles of the outer forearm.
Median nerve glide
This stretching activity reduces tension on a compressed nerve, such as the median nerve.
This exercise mildly stretches the tendons in the carpal tunnel.
This exercise concentrates on the muscles of the forearm.
This exercise also focuses on the muscles of the forearm. The use of a soft rubber ball or rolled-up socks is employed in this exercise.
Natural Remedies for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Below are some natural remedies for treating carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Keep your wrist in a neutral posture.
- Try some natural remedies such as ginger, Turmeric, and Devil’s claw(a South African herb that helps reduce inflammation).
- Take breaks intermittently and stretch out your hands and wrist to relieve cramped muscles.
- Perform wrist exercises.
- Apply ice packs on the affected part of the wrist.
Carpal Tunnel syndrome cannot be treated without medical supervision as it often requires surgery. If you sense a numbness or you feel shock-like sensations on your wrist, notify your doctor immediately.