“You wake up with numbness and tingling sensation in your hands. Did you sleep on your hands? Is it arthritis? Or could it be Carpal Tunnel syndrome?”
Our hands are very important in our everyday life. We write, eat, work, hold someone else’s hand and even talk with our hand. Sometimes, we disregard when we feel something unusual with our hands. We don’t take it seriously until we are not able to use them as we did before. CTS is quite common, it can affect anyone at any age. According to the National Institutes of Health, women are three times more likely than men to have carpal tunnel syndrome. The explanation for this greater risk is unknown, but it may be related to the smaller size of women’s carpal tunnel.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms can be very like arthritis symptoms. It is important to know the characteristics of this condition.
What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs as a result of compression of the median nerve. Anything that irritates or compresses the median nerve in the carpal tunnel space can result to carpal tunnel syndrome. Most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Edema- Fluid retention. Most pregnant women are susceptible to CTS
- Swelling (inflammation) around tendons
- Wrist dislocation/ fracture
- Repetitive use of vibrating hand tools
- Work related repetitive use of hands
Symptoms usually starts gradually. The following are the most common symptoms:
- Numbness, tingling and pain in hand. Compression of the nerve produces the numbness, tingling and eventually hand weakness.
- An electric shock-like feeling mostly in the thumb, index, and long fingers
- Strange sensations and pain traveling up the arm toward the shoulder
There are factors that have been associated with CTS. Although these factors do not cause the carpal tunnel syndrome but increases the chance of developing or aggravating the median nerve.
- Medical conditions such as Diabetes increases the risk of nerve damage, including damage to median nerve. Other condition that plays role in CTS are rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid gland imbalance
- Anatomic factors like wrist fractures or dislocation alters the space within carpal tunnel and creates pressure on the median nerve.
- Obesity and lack of fitness turns up as a risk factor. Greater body mass appears to reduce nerve flow speed into the hand. Due to obesity lack of fitness tags along with it, which also increases the risk.
- Hormonal changes related to pregnancy is also a factor.
- Work place factors can also increase the risk of CTS.Workers who use their hands and wrists repetitively are at risk for CTS.
- Computer users and typists – Repetitive typing and key entry has traditionally been associated with CTS.
- Labor intensive workers – Occupation involving heavy labor are at much greater risk than computer users.
- Smoking and alcohol abuse increase one’s risk for CTS. Cigarette smoking slows down the blood flow. Smokers have worse symptoms and slower recovery than nonsmokers. Increased alcohol intake has been associated with people with other risk factors.
- Other factors like poor nutrition, previous injuries, and stress can increase one’s risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you spend a lot of time doing activities that involve forceful or repetitive hand or wrist movement, you have an increased risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. You can reduce your risk by taking a few simple steps.
- Take Frequent Breaks switch hands and change positions often when you are doing repeated motions. Take breaks and rest the hands.
- Take good care of your health taking care of your health does not only include eating healthy foods. It includes having a healthy weight, doing regular exercise, controlling other health conditions such as arthritis and diabetes, also to avoid smoking. These will help preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Proper body mechanics are key to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Stretching exercise helps prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Prayer Stretch, Wrist flexor stretch and wrist extensor stretch)
- Arranging the activity and work place helps to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Treating underlying condition/illness for persons who have diabetes, good glucose control will prevent several complications.
- Don’t grip so hard using more force than what is needed when performing manual tasks
How Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is being treated?
There are several lines of treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Avoiding positions that over extends the wrists
- Wrist splints that hold the hands in a neutral position
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
- Steroid injections into carpal tunnel area to reduce inflammation
- Surgery is the last resort if other treatment hasn’t helped or if there is severe damage to the median nerve.
The goal of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is to return to normal function and activities, also to prevent nerve damage and loss of muscle strength in finger and hands.