Understanding Carpal Tunnel & How to Treat It
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common, painful disorder of the wrist and hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. People who use their hands and wrists repeatedly in the same way (e.g. computer use) tend to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pressure on the nerve may also be caused by a fracture or other injury, which may may cause inflammation and swelling. In addition, pressure may be caused by inflamation and swelling associated with arthritis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.
- Pain, numbness, or tingling in your hand and wrist, especially in the thumb and index and middle fingers.
- Increased pain with increased use of your hand, such as when you are driving.
- Increased pain at night.
- Weak grip and dropping objects. See doctor immediately.
- Sensitivity to cold.
- Muscle deterioration especially in the thumb (in later stages).
- Tap the inside middle of your wrist over the median nerve. You may feel pain or a sensation like an electric shock.
- You may be asked to bend your wrist down for one minute to see if this causes symptoms.
- Your provider may arrange to test the response of your nerves and muscles to electrical stimulation.
If you have a disease that is causing carpal tunnel syndrome (such as rheumatoid arthritis), treatment of the disease may relieve your symptoms. Other treatment focuses on relieving irritation and pressure on the nerve in your wrist. To relieve pressure your healthcare provider may suggest:
- Restricting use of your hand or changing the way you use it.
- Changing your work station (the position of your desk, computer, and chair) to one that irrritates your wrist less.
- Wearing a wrist splint.
In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. You may return to your sport or activity when you are able to painlessly grip objects like a tennis racquet, bat, golf club, or bicycle handlebars. In sports such as gymnastics, it is important that you can bear weight on your wrist without pain.
Carpal tunnel is best prevented by having taking breaks and avoiding repetitive motions. If you have a job that requires you to be in one position all day (e.g. work at a computer all day), it is very important to take breaks and relax your hand and wrist.
- Elevate your arm with pillows when you lie down.
- Avoid activities that overuse your hand.
- When you use a computer mouse, use it with the hand that does not have carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Find a different way to use your hand by using another tool or try to use the other hand.
- Avoid bending your wrists.
Time to Completion: 5 minutes. You can do these exercises right away.
Gently bend your wrist forward. Hold for 5 seconds.
Gently bend your wrist backward. Hold this position 5 seconds.
Gently move your wrist from side to side (a handshake motion). Hold at each end.Hold for 15 seconds
With one hand, help to bend the opposite wrist down by pressing the back of your hand and holding it down.
Stretch the hand back by pressing the fingers in a backward direction and holding it for 15 to 30 seconds. Keep your elbow straight.
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