Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the wrist and hand. The carpal tunnel is a narrow tunnel formed by the bones and other tissues of your wrist. This tunnel protects your median nerve. The median nerve helps you move your thumbs and the first 3 fingers on each hand. Also known as median nerve entrapment or median nerve compression, it may happen when a nerve swells, the tendons become inflamed, or something causes swelling in the carpal tunnel.
The anatomy of your wrist, health problems and possibly repetitive hand motions can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms usually start gradually. The first symptoms often include numbness or tingling in your thumb, index and middle fingers that comes and goes.
Carpal tunnel syndrome may also cause discomfort in your wrist and the palm of your hand. Common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:
- Tingling or numbness. You may experience tingling and numbness in your fingers or hand. Usually the thumb and index, middle or ring fingers are affected, but not your little finger. Sometimes there is a sensation like an electric shock in these fingers. The sensation may travel from your wrist up your arm. These symptoms often occur while holding a steering wheel, phone or newspaper. The sensation may wake you from sleep. Many people “shake out” their hands to try to relieve their symptoms. The numb feeling may become constant over time.
- Weakness. You may experience weakness in your hand and a tendency to drop objects. This may be due to the numbness in your hand or weakness of the thumb’s pinching muscles, which are also controlled by the median nerve.
Who is at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome?
People at risk are those with jobs or activities that involve repetitive finger use, especially those associated with high force, long-term use, extreme wrist motions and vibration. However, many factors may contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. They include:
- Heredity (smaller carpal tunnels can run in families)
- Hemodialysis (a process where the blood is filtered)
- Wrist fracture and dislocation
- Hand or wrist deformity
- Arthritic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout
- Thyroid gland hormone imbalance (hypothyroidism)
- A mass (tumor) in the carpal tunnel
- Older age
- Amyloid deposits
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment
If carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a medical problem (such as rheumatoid arthritis), your doctor should treat that problem first. Your doctor may ask you to rest your wrist or change how you use your hand. He or she may also ask you to wear a splint on your wrist. The splint keeps your wrist from moving but lets your hand do most of what it normally does. A splint can help ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome, especially at night.
Putting ice on your wrist to reduce swelling, massaging the area, and doing stretching exercises may also help. An over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can relieve swelling and pain. These medicines include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). In more severe cases, your doctor might inject your wrist with a corticosteroid, which reduces inflammation and pain.
What if Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment don’t help?
In some cases, surgery is needed to make the symptoms go away completely. The surgery involves cutting the ligament that may be pressing on your median nerve. You’ll usually get back the normal use of your wrist and hand within a few weeks to a few months after surgery.
Doing the hand, wrist, and finger exercises that your doctor tells you to do after surgery is very important. Without exercise, your wrist may get stiff, and you may lose some use of your hand.
How can you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?
- It is a good idea to periodically stretch the hand and wrist. Also, changing the task is a good idea to prevent any type of repetitive strain on the hand or wrist.
- Be aware of your wrist and hand form. You want to avoid excessive wrist flexion or extension.
- Set up the environment. Make sure the computer screen, keyboard, and mouse are at the proper height and distance. Your posture will affect the functioning of the hand and wrist.
- Strengthening postural muscles will help you maintain good posture while at work, reducing stress on the wrist.
If you have already been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, it is a great idea to apply the tips mentioned above. In addition to that it is also a good idea to apply the following:
- Wear a brace or splint at night. This will help to keep the wrist in a neutral position while you sleep, lessening the pressure in the carpal tunnel and helping to decrease the inflammation.
- You can also take anti-inflammatories to help decrease the pain and reduce inflammation.
- Make an appointment with a physical therapist. They will teach you proper mechanics, mobilize the median nerve, decrease pain, and assist you in making lifestyle changes.
MultiCare Medical | Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Omaha & Papillon Nebraska
Your Physical Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in your recovery from any injury, illness, surgery, or disease that affects your musculoskeletal system. An individualized rehabilitation program at MultiCare Medical Group helps relieve pain, promote healing, and restores strength, motion, and balance. If you have any questions about rehabilitation, please call their office in Papillion, Nebraska at 402-505-7989, or schedule an appointment online for a rehab assessment.