Carpal tunnel syndrome is the compression of the median nerve as it passes into your hand,
This median nerve is present on the palm side of your hand also the carpal tunnel.
The median nerve is responsible for providing sensations or the ability to feel your thumb, index finger, long finger, and part of the ring finger.
Moreover, it supplies impulse to the muscle going to your thumb.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur in either one or both of your hands,
Swelling inside your wrist can cause compression in the carpal tunnel syndrome and can often lead to numbness, weakness, and tingling on the side of your hand, near the thumb.
Let’s learn more about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in detail.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome includes excess pressure on your wrist and on the median nerve can cause pain in your carpal tunnel. Repetitive motions of the hand can also cause it.
Moreover, inflammation can lead to swelling.
One of the most common causes of inflammation is an underlying condition that causes swelling in the wrist.
In some cases, however, it can also obstruct the flow of blood. Some of the most frequent conditions that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome are as follows:
Moreover, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disease or fractures or trauma to the wrist can also cause it.
If you overextend your wrist repeatedly, it can get even worse.
Repeated motion of your wrist and the base of the thumb contributes to swelling and compression of the median nerve and can be the result of:
- position of your wrist while using a keyboard, or mouse
- extensive exposure to vibrations using hand tools or power tools
- a repeated movement that overextends or puts pressure on your wrist like playing a piano or typing
Risk of Developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
It is important to note that women are 3 times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
Between the ages of 30 and 60, it is most frequently diagnosed and certain conditions can increase your risk of developing it, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
These are diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
Certain lifestyle factors can also increase your chances. These include smoking, high salt intake, a sedentary lifestyle, and a high BMI.
Moreover, certain jobs that involve repetitive movement of the wrist are manufacturing, assembly line work, keyboard occupations, and construction work.
Thus, if you do any of the following works, then you are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are usually found along the nerve path because of the compression of the median nerve.
Your hand may ‘fall asleep’ more frequently and drop objects. Other signs and symptoms are:
Numbness, tingling, and pain in your thumb and the first three fingers.
Pain and burning sensations that travel up your arm, wrist pain at night that may also interfere with your sleep, and weakness in the muscles of your hand.
Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
With the help of your history, a physical examination, and certain tests, nerve conduction studies, your doctor will diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome.
A physical exam mainly includes a detailed examination of your hand, wrist, shoulder, and neck.
This helps your doctor to determines if there is any other cause of nerve pressure.
They will also look at your wrists to check for any signs of tenderness, swelling, and other deformities.
Moreover, they will also check the sensations to your fingers and the strength of the muscles in your hand.
Nerve conduction studies are diagnostic tests that can help to measure the conduction speed of the nerve impulses.
If your nerve is slower than normal as it passes into your hand, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome.
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Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on how severe the pain and symptoms are and if there is any weakness or not.
According to the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, in 2008, they released guidelines for the effective treatment of carpal tunnel.
The recommendations help to try and manage carpal tunnel pain without surgery, if possible.
Nonsurgical options are as follows:
Avoid positions that overextend your wrist, wrist splints that hold your hands in neutral positions, mild pain medications, and medications to reduce inflammation.
Moreover, it also includes treatment of any underlying medical condition like diabetes or arthritis or steroid injections into your carpal tunnel to reduce inflammation.
However, it is important to note that you may need surgery if there is severe damage to the median nerve.
Surgery involves cutting the band of the tissue in the wrist that crosses the median nerve to lessen the pressure on it.
Age, duration of the symptoms, diabetes, and possibility of weakness are certain factors that determine the success or failure of your surgery.
However, the outcome is usually good. Learn more about thumb sucking here.
Exercises and Stretches
There are a number of exercises and stretches you can try to help relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
You may feel a gentle pull or stretch during the following exercises, however, if you experience pain, then stop doing them.
This exercise helps to stretch the muscles in the inner forearm.
For this, hold your arm straight out in front of the body at shoulder height, and try not to look at the elbow when stretching it out.
Bend your wrist back, like making a stop sign, and use the other hand to gently pull the palm back to the body to feel stretch in the inner forearm.
Hold for 15 seconds, release and repeat 15 times.
Repeat the exercise again on the other arm as well.
You can do this 4 times per day, 5 to 7 days per week, and works well as a warm-up stretch before any activity.
This exercise will help stretch the muscles on the outer forearm.
Extend one arm in first of your body at shoulder height and try not to look when stretching out.
With the palm facing down, bend your wrist so that the fingers point toward the floor, and using the other hand, gently pull the bent hand toward your body to feel a stretch.
Hold this for 15 seconds, release and repeat 5 times.
It is important to repeat the whole exercise on the other arm as well and you can do this 4 times a day, 5 to 7 times per week.
Let’s discuss other exercises as follows:
Median Nerve Glide
A glide is a stretching exercise to help relieve pressure on the compressed nerve,
Accroding to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, you can apply a warm compress to your hands for 15 minutes before doing this stretch.
For this exercise, make a fist with one hand, keeping your thumb on the outside.
Uncurl the fingers, stretching them and your thumb out straight and then keeping your thumb pressed to the side of the hand.
Gently bend your hand back toward the forearm, then extend on the thumb to stretch it. For exchange of position, hold for 3 to 7 seconds.
Release the position and repeat the whole exercise on the other hand.
Moreover, holding a cold compress like ice or a bag of frozen peas on your hand for 20 minutes after this exercise can help prevent inflammation afterward.
This exercise gently helps to stretch your tendons in the carpal tunnel. According to some research, using a splint alongside the tendon and doing nerve gliding exercises help to improve this condition.
You can apply a warm compress for 15 minutes before carrying out this exercise and a cold compress for 20 minutes after completing it to prevent inflammation.
Moreover, you can do this exercise on both of your hands at the same time to alternative between each hand.
Bend your elbow so that your forearm points straight up, straighten your fingers, and thumb out in line with the wrist so all your fingers at pointing straight up.
Bend the yop of your tingers to make a hook shape, and then bend the fingers into a tight fist with the thumb on top of the fingers.
Hold this position for 3 seconds.
You can also try the following and is similar to tendon glide exercise.
Straighten your fingers and thumb out in line with your wrist so all your fingers are pointing straight up.
Bend your fingers from the lower knuckles, pointing them straight out at the right angle, bend the fingers from the lower knuckles so that the fingertips touch the palm.
Hold each of these for 3 seconds.
It is important to repeat these 5 to 20 times 2 to 3 times a day, for as many days of the week as feels comfortable.
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With the help of certain lifestyle changes, you can reduce the risk factors for developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Treating underlying medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure,s, and arthritis can help reduce your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Moreover, paying careful attention to the posture of your hand and avoid specific activities that overextend your wrist can also help to reduce symptoms.
Additionally, physical therapy exercises can also help prevent it.
Early intervention, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes can help prevent significant long-term improvement and eliminate symptoms.
If you do not get treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, it can rarely lead to permanent nerve damage, disability, and loss of hand function.