Do you experience frequent or constant pain in your wrist? Has this affected how you go about with your everyday life? What you’re experiencing may be carpal tunnel syndrome. It is a medical condition that affects your hands and wrist. If you think you’re suffering from this disease, read on to learn how you can address it.
What Is the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Definition?
The carpal tunnel is a slender passageway found on your wrist. Ligaments and bone structures make up the carpal tunnel, and it serves as the entrance to the palm for tendons and the median nerve.
The median nerve runs from your forearm arm, through the carpal tunnel, and to your fingers. This nerve is responsible for controlling the movement and sensation in all the fingers, except the pinky finger.
Compression or pressure on the median nerve affects its function, causing hand and finger pain, numbness, and weakness. We call this compression the carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also cause inflammation and swelling in your wrist.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
You typically cannot pinpoint the exact cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Often, an irritated or compressed median nerve occurs from a combination of several risk factors.
According to experts, factors such as repetitive wrist and hand motions and underlying health conditions are common causes. Pregnant women are also at a higher risk of developing it because of the changes in their bodies during pregnancy.
Let’s take a further look at the possible causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.
1. Repetitive Motions
Depending on your field of work, hobbies, and lifestyle, you may be overusing your hands and wrists. Constant and repetitive movements of the hands and the wrist can cause inflammation to the membranes surrounding your wrist’s tendons. This inflammation can compress and irritate your median nerve.
Some examples of repetitive hand and wrist motions are as follows:
- Frequent overbending or overextending of the wrist
- Incorrect wrist posture when typing
- Constant use of handheld power tools that vibrate
2. Underlying Medical Conditions
Certain medical diseases and injuries can also cause nerve damage or bone deformation that squeeze the median nerve. The following are some health problems that may factor in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Thyroid problems
- Kidney failure
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms of the Syndrome
The common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain and numbness in areas around your hand, fingers, and wrist. These symptoms may even reach your arms, which can significantly affect your ability to perform your usual activities. You will also have a more challenging time grasping and gripping things with your hands.
As your median nerve suffers from the compression, the symptoms that may manifest are the following:
- Tingling sensation in your palm and fingers that reach the arms
- Numbness in your fingers
- Difficulty pinching, grasping, and gripping
- Weakness of the hands
- Sensations similar to electric shocks in the fingers
- Muscle pain and cramping
You may wake up in the morning feeling a tingling sensation or numbness in your hands. The symptoms can appear throughout the day and worsen as you do your daily activities that require hand, wrist, and finger motions.
If you’re like some people, shaking your hands may make the sensation go away at first. However, as the condition gradually progresses, shaking your hands will not be of much help.
Who Is at Risk and the Anatomy?
Certain groups of people are more at risk of developing this condition. Research shows that women are thrice more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men because of their smaller carpal tunnels. The typical range of people diagnosed with the disease are patients aged 30 to 60.
The following are the people who are more susceptible to developing carpal tunnel syndrome:
- History of fracture or dislocation of the wrist
- Family history of having a smaller carpal tunnel
- Occupations that require repeated motions of the hands, wrist, fingers, and arms and use of handheld power tools
Here are the occupations that pose a higher risk of developing the condition:
- Construction workers
- Assembly line and manufacturing workers
- Seamstress or knitter
- Cook or baker
- Office jobs
Hand Test and Diagnosis
There are various tests that can diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Tinel test: This involves tapping on your wrist’s palm side to check if it results in tingling in your fingers.
- Phalen test: It involves pressing the back of your hands together to examine if it will cause tingling or numbness.
- Imaging tests: To check your bones and tissues, your doctor may also use imaging tests such as X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI.
- Nerve conduction studies: This test involves placing electrodes on your hands and wrists that will deliver small shocks to the median nerve. The test will measure if the impulses are slow when passing through the carpal tunnel.
- Electromyography: It involves inserting a fine needle electrode into your muscle to evaluate electrical activity the muscle is moving or at rest. It can identify the damage to the muscles.
Treatments and Brace for carpal tunnel surgery
Without proper treatment, the condition can massively impact your quality of life. When your median nerve gets damaged severely, it may lead to permanent nerve and muscle damage.
The treatment you will receive depends on the severity of your condition. One of the best way for quick recovery is wearing braces. Here are some possible treatment methods that can address your pain:
- Changes in your lifestyle and routine. This involves taking frequent breaks to avoid continuous repetitive motions of the hands and the wrist.
- Doing exercises. It’s important to perform simple stretches to avoid nerve compression in your wrist.
- Treatment of underlying medical conditions. This is especially crucial for diseases like arthritis and diabetes.
- Wearing a wrist brace or splint. Your doctor may advise you to wear a brace or a splint to limit the movement of your wrist. Doing so would also decrease the pressure on your median nerves. If this is part of your treatment plant, it’s important to wear it when you sleep to prevent your wrist from curling and bending.
- Taking medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen can ease the pain you feel from the condition.
- Surgery. If the nonsurgical modalities fail to address your pain, your doctor may recommend you undergo surgery. Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is usually an outpatient procedure. Doctors often use local anesthesia to perform the surgery, which can make you feel tired and sleepy.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery
There are two types of surgery performed on the carpal tunnel: open release and endoscopic carpal tunnel release. Here, your doctor will cut the ligaments surrounding the carpal tunnel to relieve the compression on the median nerve. These ligaments will gradually grow after the surgery without pressing on the median nerve.
1. Open Release
During an open release, your surgeon will create an incision on your palm over the carpal tunnel. The goal here is to cut the ligament, thus creating more room for the median nerve. This eases the pressure on the nerve, which would result in less pain.
2. Endoscopic Tunnel Release
Your surgeon will create one or two small incisions on your wrist. They will then use an endoscope, a slender telescope-like device that has a camera at the end, to view your carpal tunnel. The endoscope guides the procedure. The other incision is for the cannula, a thin tube where the surgical instrument will enter to cut the ligament. The healing period for this procedure is relatively faster than the open release.
What to Expect After Surgery and carpal tunnel exercises
The recovery period for the surgery will take at least 2 to 6 months. After the surgery, expect to experience postoperative stiffness and swelling. Your doctor will prescribe pain relief medications and the proper exercises to relieve this. Also, you will have to wear a wrist brace for the first several weeks after the operation.
As much as possible, try to avoid excessive strain on your hands as you recover. Always consult your doctor about the activities you may or may not do.
Here are some activities you can get back to doing weeks after the surgery:
- 2 weeks or until after your stitches are removed: Driving
- 2 to 6 weeks: Writing
- 6 to 8 weeks: Light gripping, grasping, pulling, and pinching
- 10 to 12 weeks: Full strength
Keep in mind these are only estimates. Your recovery period will vary depending on the severity of your condition, how your body heals, and if you follow your doctor’s instructions.
Prevention and carpal tunnel home remedies
While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, there are measures you can take to reduce strain on your wrist. This may help in maintaining the condition of your hands and wrists.
1. Pay Attention to the Tension in Your Hand and Wrist
Since hand movements are a regular part of our daily life, we tend to use our hands and wrists mindlessly. You may not notice it, but you may be putting excessive tension and force on them. Being mindful of this is especially important when your job requires constant hand motions. It would help to pay attention to how much pressure you’re putting on your hand and wrist from time to time.
2. Take Time to Stretch
Working for hours without a break can put a lot of strain on your hands and wrists. As much as possible, take a 10- to 15-minute break every hour. During those breaks, try simple stretches that will relieve the tension on your hands and wrists.
3. Maintain a Neutral Position
Maintaining a neutrally straight position for your wrist can avoid compression in your median nerve. As much as your tasks allow, try to avoid bending your wrist excessively. If you are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, you may consult your doctor if wearing a wrist brace when you sleep will be beneficial to prevent unnecessary movements.
4. Watch Your Posture
Aside from your wrists’ position, your overall body posture may also affect your carpal tunnel and median nerve. Poor posture starts with a shoulder that rolls forward while you work. This would create a chain reaction on your neck and arms that will eventually reach your wrists.
5. Switch Up the Hands You Use
Often, we tend to overuse our dominant hands in performing motions repeatedly. To give your muscles a break, try to practice doing tasks using your non-dominant hands. Once you get used to this, you can switch up the hands you use from time to time to avoid excessive strain.
6. Keep Your Hands and Wrists Warm
The level of coldness also plays a role in the stiffening of your hands and wrists. Especially during chilly weather, try to wear a pair of gloves that will keep your hands warm.
7. Adjust Your Workspace
Try to adjust your workspace setup if you feel like it’s promoting the symptoms of the condition. This may involve switching your desk to a leveled height to avoid bending your wrist. For people who work with computers, it’s also advisable to adjust your keyboard placement.
8. Consult an Occupational Therapist
An occupational therapist can give you comprehensive instructions to move your hands and wrists efficiently to avoid developing carpal tunnel syndrome. They can also teach exercises to boost the strength of your hand muscles. Occupational therapists can also give advice on how you can change your routine to ease symptoms of the condition.
carpal tunnel solution
Nobody likes to be in pain — it can stress you out, impact your productivity negatively, and create massive inconvenience in your life. If not addressed, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent nerve and muscle damage in your hands and wrists.
Hence, it is crucial to seek immediate medical care if you’re experiencing any of its symptoms. Always consult your doctor to identify the best treatment for you. By doing so, you can continue enjoying your daily activities pain-free!