What to do when you have carpal tunnel syndrome
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Have you ever noticed a tingling sensation in your fingers or perhaps numbness that comes and goes? What started out as mild symptoms may now becoming worse. The sensations may be lasting longer and even disturbing your sleep, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night. Eventually if untreated, the pain and numbness can make it difficult to grip everyday objects such as a hairbrush, utensils, and pens. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
According to the American College of Rheumatology (https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome), carpal tunnel affects around 4-10 million Americans, with women having a higher risk of development than men. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes irritated, pinched, or compressed. The carpal tunnel is a space in the wrist that is very narrow, and happens to house numerous tendons and nerves. Therefore anything that narrows the carpal tunnel, can compress the median nerve. The most common causes include injury, arthritis, pregnancy, diabetes, overuse of the wrist, and thyroid disease.
The result of a compressed median nerve often includes the symptoms of burning, tingling, or numbness in the fingers. People may also experience difficulty gripping, holding objects, and making a strong fist. Typically people notice these symptoms in the thumb, index, and middle fingers of the dominant hand first. However CTS can affect both hands. In some cases pain can be experienced through the wrist, hand, and forearm. According to Harvard Health, if untreated, this condition can cause the muscles of the thumb to atrophy, causing the muscles at the base of the thumb to flatten.
Prevention and treatment of CTS
The good news is that carpal tunnel syndrome is very preventable and treatable. Here are a few tips for prevention and treatment of CTS.
Prevention of CTS:
- Work with a neutral wrist- when using a keyboard, type with the wrist joint straight, not bent downward or upward.
- Take a break every 15 minutes- gently stretch hands and wrists.
- Stand and sit up straight- hunching over places unnecessary pressure on the neck, which can affect the nerves in the wrists, hands, and fingers.
- Ergonomics- check your work ergonomics and ensure that you are utilizing all of your resources to ensure proper posture, and working positions.
Treatment of CTS:
- Wear a splint on the affected hand.
- Take anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
- Apply ice to help reduce the swelling.
- Cortisone injections- though it may only provide temporary relief, it may help reduce the swelling.
- Stretches and exercises for the affected hand.
Most individuals who receive treatment for CTS recover completely. The tendons, and ligaments in our body are all connected to each other. Therefore if you have poor posture, it may be adding stress to the nerves in your neck, which than places pressure on the nerves in your hand, leading to CTS. A chiropractor assesses the body as a whole, and treats the source of the problem, rather than just the symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms of CTS consider a consultation with the chiropractor offers who can assess your needs and provide the right treatment plan for you.