Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Symptoms, Treatments, Prevention, and More
In today’s world, most people spend a great deal of their days in front of a computer, either typing on a keyboard or clicking with a mouse. When they’re not engaged in these actions, many people spend their downtime playing video games or engaging in various activities on their smartphones. All of these actions can lead to a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s what you need to know about this condition, from causes to treatments and more.
What Is It?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the compression of the median nerve that passes through the wrist and into the hand. It is located on the palm side of your hand, in a pathway known as the carpal tunnel—thus, giving the condition its name. This nerve provides you with the ability to feel in your thumb, index finger, middle finger, and part of your ring finger.
When the carpal tunnel within your wrist swells, it applies pressure to the median nerve. This is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually exhibit themselves along the path of the median nerve. These symptoms can include:
- Weakness in the hand muscles (you may frequently drop things)
- Numbness, pain, or a tingling sensation in your thumb and first three fingers
- Pain, or a burning sensation, which travels up your arm
- General wrist pain, especially at night (may interfere with your sleep)
- Hand frequently “falling asleep” without a clear cause
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, and should pursue treatment.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by inflammation or swelling in the wrist. However, there are many different things that can cause this swelling or inflammation to occur, including:
- Improper wrist positioning when using your computer
- Prolonged exposure to vibrations in the hands and arms (e.g., when using power tools)
- Repeated movements that overextend the wrist (e.g., typing, texting, playing the piano, etc.)
Many people can do these activities without any concerns. However, if the person has an underlying condition that can promote swelling and inhibit blood flow, they are more likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome from the above-mentioned activities. Such conditions include:
- High blood pressure
- Rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Other trauma to the wrist, such as fractures
If you have any of these conditions, it is even more important that you take proper steps to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are a wide variety of treatment options available for carpal tunnel syndrome, from lifestyle adjustments to surgery. Nonsurgical options are always the first to be pursued, and can offer exceptional relief. Nonsurgical options may include:
- Avoiding positions or activities that aggravate your carpal tunnel symptoms
- Wearing a wrist splint to keep your hand in a more neutral position (especially at night)
- Medications to reduce pain and inflammation
- Treatment of underlying conditions that may increase inflammation in the wrist
- Steroid injections into the carpal tunnel area to help prevent inflammation
Wrist splints and avoiding particular activities are, by and large, the most common routes taken to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, and most people find a great amount of relief with these treatments. If you’re looking for a wrist brace or splint to help with your carpal tunnel syndrome, stop by Medical Xpress.
If you’ve only just begun to experience some symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, and you’re hoping to prevent it from fully developing, there are a few things you can do.
First, if you can, seek treatment for any conditions that put you at higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis. Second, pay closer attention to your hand position when performing any activities that overextend the wrist. This might mean using a wrist support pad while typing, for example. If possible, reduce the frequency of or avoid these activities altogether.
You might also consider looking for stretches and exercises that can improve wrist mobility and reduce inflammation in the carpal tunnel area.
For most people with carpal tunnel syndrome, simple lifestyle changes and the use of a wrist brace can provide significant improvement, and may even eliminate symptoms altogether. In more serious cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to help treat your symptoms. However, these cases are few and far between.
If you’re experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, consider stopping by Medical Xpress, and speak to one of our team members about finding a wrist support brace to help provide some relief of your symptoms.