What to know about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Hands… have you ever considered how much we rely on them? When they start to ache or hurt it can be surprising and frustrating.
One common hand condition OSMC physicians see in patients is carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the narrow ‘tunnel’ formed by the bones and other tissues of your wrist and arms get swollen or inflamed. When they do, they press against the median nerve. The median nerve helps you move your thumbs and the first 3 fingers on each hand. The pressure can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
Signs of carpal tunnel normally start gradually and can worsen over time. Common symptoms include:
- Tingling and numbness in your fingers or hand that may travel up your wrist and arm
- Pain in your wrist and hand
- Weakness in your hand or thumb that may cause you to lose your grip on things
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more commonly diagnosed in women. Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Fractures or dislocations of the wrist
- Conditions like diabetes that damage nerves
- Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
- Body changes during pregnancy and menopause
- Other medical conditions
- Tasks that use vibrating tools or repetitive wrist movements
OSMC’s Dr. J. Mark Schramm, Hand Specialist, explains, “People at risk for carpal tunnel include those who have jobs that require pinching or gripping with the wrist held bent, such as computers or tools. Even gardening, golfing or canoeing can bring on some trouble.”
How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The following tips may help you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and minimize stress on your wrists and hands:
- Reduce the pressure and grip you place on hand tools and devices.
- Ensure you are holding your body and hands in an ergonomic position with proper equipment and good posture.
- If you use a keyboard a lot, adjust the height of your chair so that your forearms are level with your keyboard, and you don’t have to flex your wrists to type.
- Take regular breaks from repeated hand movements to give your hands and wrists time to rest.
- Don’t work with your arms too close or too far from your body.
- Don’t rest your wrists on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
- Switch hands during work tasks.
- Make sure the tools you use aren’t too big for your hands.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you are experiencing carpal tunnel symptoms, an orthopedic hand doctor can review your medical history with you and perform a physical examination. Tests are available that can determine the cause of your symptoms may include X-rays, electromyography, or a nerve conduction study.
From there, treatment options include adjusting your activities to lessen the continued development of carpal tunnel such as, ice packs, wrist splinting, anti-inflammatory medication, or steroid injections can also be helpful. Hand therapy, performed by a physical therapist with specialized training, may help your pain. In advanced cases, surgery can relieve the pressure from your median nerve.
Be sure to talk about these things when you visit your physician.
“Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a painful and bothersome condition, and we encourage patients experiencing symptoms to come in and talk to us about it. Many patients think it’s a normal part of the aging process and don’t realize there are ways we can alleviate symptoms with or without surgical intervention. We can help you choose the best treatment for your needs,” notes Dr. Schramm.
This blog post is not intended to provide personal medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment to you or to any other individual. It is information for educational purposes only. You should not use this information in place of a consultation or the advice of a healthcare provider.