Upwards of 10 million Americans are impacted by carpal tunnel syndrome. While in recent years, the dramatic increase in employee time spent on computers and the poor ergonomics that may be associated with this increase has been identified as the root cause for many cases, carpal tunnel syndrome has actually been around since the mid-nineteenth century, long before the days of Google and Apple.
Tingling in the fingers, hand weakness, and pain are all symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you may be wondering what you can do to ease the pain and feel like yourself again. Thankfully, there are some simple steps and exercises that can help restore your hands and wrists to normal, so you’ll feel better and be ready to handle repetitive activities without difficulty again.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve from the forearm to the palm is compressed or pinched in the wrist, which then affects hand function. Repetitive movements can cause significant swelling, thickening, or irritation of the membrane surrounding the tendon in the carpal tunnel, resulting in swelling of the tendon and increased pressure on the median nerve.
Symptoms of CTS, also known as median nerve compression, may include:
- Tingling or burning in the palms and fingers
- Hand weakness when gripping objects
- Excessive itchiness in the palms and fingers
- Arm weakness
- Pain or numbness in the palms and fingers
- Loss of sensation in hands
- Loss of hand function
- An increase in the above-noted symptoms at night
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
There are certain factors that make an individual more susceptible to CTS, including:
- Being female – women are three times more likely to develop CTA than men
- Having a pre-existing metabolic condition (like diabetes)
- Trauma or injury to the wrist
- A family history of CTS
- Mechanical issues in the wrist joint
- An underactive thyroid gland
- Fluid retention during pregnancy
Furthermore, workplace factors have been known to contribute to CTS and have been reported in higher instances among people who perform repetitive wrist movements as part of their duties, including assembly work employees, hairdressers, mechanics, cashiers, and tailors.
It’s important to consult with a medical professional if CTS symptoms appear. CTS symptoms may disappear and reappear at a later time. The earlier CTS is diagnosed, the greater the likelihood of avoiding permanent muscle damage and the easier the condition is to treat.
Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Unfortunately, in extreme cases of CTS, surgery may be required. And the recovery time from this type of surgery can be long. Fortunately, there are a lot of nonsurgical options to try out that may help you to avoid getting to that unpleasant surgical stage.
Exercises and stretches
A great first place to start is with some stretching and strengthening moves on your wrists, palms, and fingers. Mobility exercises can provide tremendous relief and help with function and flexibility. Check out this YouTube video on the five best carpal tunnel stretches and exercises to get you started.
Avoid activities that trigger carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms
While this may sometimes be easier said than done, especially if your paycheck relies on completing these repetitive activities, it’s at least worth exploring options. Ergonomically correct workstations have gained popularity in recent years for this very reason. In any event, it’s at least worth a further look into whether the offending action can be minimized in some manner.
Wear a splint
Wearing a splint on your wrist has been known to assist with CTS. Even simply wearing a splint at night can help to relieve pressure on the median nerve. Symptoms also tend to get worse at night, so wearing a splint to bed can help to proactively relieve symptoms before they materialize.
Ice Your Wrist
Applying ice to the wrist to reduce swelling may also help. Immerse your hand in an ice bath or apply an ice pack over the area of pain for temporary relief, as this can reduce inflammation. This home remedy is especially effective if your CTS is caused by pregnancy, fractures, or other fluid retention problems.
Various over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen and aspirin) may provide temporary relief, although they do not address the root cause of the problem. There are also select prescription medicines that doctors may suggest, including corticosteroids and lidocaine, that may be injected directly into the wrist.
See Your Chiropractor
As with all symptoms related to pain and stress on your body, your chiropractor is here to help. Not only will your chiropractor be able to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, they have a range of non-invasive treatment options available. In the unfortunate instance that surgery is required, your chiropractor can even work with you to ensure a speedy recovery and an expedited healing process.