What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can make daily tasks difficult or even impossible to perform because of the pain or numbness in the hand and arm. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common nerve disorders, affecting anywhere from 4 to 10 million Americans each year. Understanding the basic anatomy of the hand and the symptoms associated with it can help you learn how to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or even treat an existing condition.
The carpal tunnel is a passageway on the palm side of the hand with bones and ligaments surrounding it. The pain experienced from carpal tunnel syndrome comes from pressure put on the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the palm, as the nerve becomes compressed. People who have had wrist injuries or have arthritis or diabetes may be more susceptible than the general public to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Every case of CTS is brought upon by differing circumstances. However, many of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are similar. Common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are:
- Radiating pain, numbness, burning, or tingling up the forearm and to the shoulder
- A “shocking” feeling in the fingers
- Weakness in the hand that causes you to drop items
- Difficulty grabbing items
- Feeling like the hand is falling asleep
- Difficulty moving the thumb or first two fingers
If you have any of the symptoms but are unsure if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, an evaluation with a doctor can help with the diagnosis.
Symptom Prevention and Management for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Though you will feel the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome before a diagnosis, learning how to manage these symptoms may be helpful. Here are eight techniques you can try to manage carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Relax your grip: If you handwrite for long durations, using a big pen or pencil will help take the strain off your hand.
- Reduce force put on the wrist and fingers: If your work involves retail where you work at a register or a desk that involves typing on a keyboard, hit the keys softly.
- Take short, frequent breaks: Taking breaks can limit the tension placed on the hand and wrist. During your breaks, gently stretch and bend your hands and wrists. Be careful not to overstretch your wrist, though. Overstretching can make symptoms worse.
- Fix your posture: Incorrect posture can hunch the shoulders, shorten the neck, and tighten shoulder muscles. This improper position can affect the wrists, fingers, and hands.
- Minimize repetitive hand movements: Many tasks involve performing the same repetition over and over, for example, laying bricks. Try finding alternative techniques or ways to perform a task. If you type a lot, try using an application that allows voice-to-text.
- Alternate between activities or tasks to reduce the strain on your hands and wrists: Similar to minimizing repetitive hand movements, alternating on tasks can give your hands and wrists a break from strenuous activity to less strenuous activity.
- Avoid holding an object the same way for long: Holding an object for a long time keeps the hand and wrist in the same position with additional weight and tension. Take breaks when possible.
- Wear a splint at night to keep your wrist straight while sleeping: Splints will help keep your wrist aligned in a neutral position. If you already have carpal tunnel syndrome, splints may even reduce symptoms.
It is important to note that though these carpal tunnel management strategies may help lessen carpal tunnel symptoms, they will not guarantee that carpal tunnel syndrome will never develop.
How EmergeOrtho—Blue Ridge Region Can Help
If you feel like you are experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or want help with preventative measures, schedule an appointment with one of EmergeOrtho—Blue Ridge Region’s fellowship-trained Hand & Wrist doctors. Our doctors specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Our specialists offer several conservative treatment options such as activity modifications, steroid injections, bracing and splinting, medications, or hand therapy.
If symptoms and discomfort do not respond favorably to conservative treatments, more significant degrees of compression or failure of conservative management often benefit from surgical intervention. If untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can affect your thumb muscles and cause ongoing numbness.
Request an appointment to meet with one of our Hand & Wrist specialists so you can Emerge Stronger, Healthier, and Better.