Ever feel a strange numbness, tingling, burning, or pain in your hand? Or experience occasional shock-like sensations that radiate to your thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers? These are potential symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The pain can be extreme and persistent. The condition occurs when the ligament that runs across the top of your wrist swells and presses on the nerves. The symptoms can be mild at first but can progress to become increasingly more severe and painful.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive movements for extended periods of time, such as typing or writing or navigating your tablet or smartphone. Other activities involving repeated wrist motion that can cause the condition include using a hand tool consistently and/or for long periods of time, playing an instrument, and even cooking and using kitchen utensils often and without proper rest breaks. Other risk factors include any sort of trauma to the hands or wrists like a fracture or break. Health conditions like obesity, arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid issues are also linked to the condition.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can become increasingly painful and debilitating. The tingling sensation often felt in the fingers can range from mild to severe. The nerve damage can cause weak grip strength due to muscle wasting. Additionally, the condition can lead to difficulty performing fine motor skills such as writing or typing due to loss of coordination and dexterity in your hands and wrists.
The first step in treating the condition is simple rest. Reducing or, if possible, ceasing the repetitive movement that caused the condition could decrease the inflammation and damage. If you do need to continue performing your tasks, be sure to take regular breaks and gives your hands and wrists throughout the day.
Anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed to reduce pain and swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. These medications include ibuprofen and naproxen. Your doctor may also prescribe more potent anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids which have stronger effects but should only be used short term due to their side effects. Always consult with your physician before taking any medication.
If the pain and swelling persist, a wrist splint can help keep your wrist in a neutral position. Splints come either ready-made from medical supply stores or they can be custom fitted by an orthotics specialist.
Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome starts with avoiding or limiting activities that involve high impact movements. If you must perform these activities, be sure to take frequent breaks to give your hands and wrists a rest. Stretching your arms and fingers can also help to reduce tension in the wrists and hands, allowing them to stay flexible and limber.
If typing on a keyboard is the cause of your pain, ergonomically designed keyboards and desks can reduce strain on your muscles and joints. Likewise, using wrist supports while doing activities such as playing an instrument that involve long-term wrist movement can also help prevent pain by reducing pressure placed upon the median nerve within our wrists.
Diabetes has been linked to a higher rate of carpal tunnel syndrome. This could be due to blood supply issues which may cause damage along its length leading towards the hands and fingers. Thyroid issues have also been found to be one of many potential contributing factors. Obesity is another common risk factor for this disorder. Excess weight can lead to inflammation and extra pressure on certain nerves including those inside the wrists.
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