Have you experienced chronic pain, numbness, or tingling in your hand and arm? Carpal tunnel syndrome can become a major problem, as the median nerve in your wrist becomes pinched or compressed leading to a wide range of complications. Symptoms will only worsen over time, so obtaining a quick diagnosis and seeking treatment is the best way to get a jump start on recovery.
The carpal tunnel is the space at the base of your palm near your wrist that protects the median nerve and is covered by the transverse carpal ligament. The space cannot become larger or stretch, which may lead to nerve compression.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is when this space becomes too small due to swelling or irritation, compressing the median nerve. You will experience pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in your hand.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel
Commonly attributed to bad posture while typing, many fail to recognize that there are a wide variety of carpal tunnel syndrome causes. Below are some of the most common.
There are a number of chronic health conditions that can be linked to carpal tunnel syndrome. The most common risk factors are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), diabetes, an overactive pituitary gland, or an underactive thyroid gland.
Hand or Wrist Injury
If you have injured your wrist or hand you are at a higher risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. The swelling from the injury can make the carpal tunnel space smaller, placing more pressure on the median nerve.
Experts believe that heredity plays an important part in your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. They have also found that women are three times more likely to develop it. If you are worried about your chances of developing carpal tunnel learn more about your family’s history and talk with your physician.
Repetitive Hand Movements
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more likely to occur in people who work with machinery, assemblers, and others whose job requires frequent repetitive hand movements.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
As the disease progresses, carpal tunnel pain will last longer and worsen during the nighttime. Suffers may notice that symptoms occur when their wrists are flexed, like when holding a phone or driving. See more of the most common symptoms of carpal tunnel below
A decreased grip strength
Numbness, tingling, or burning in your hand and fingers
Unable to feel the difference between hot and cold
Shock-like feelings that affect your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
Carpal Tunnel Diagnosis
No one should suffer from the uncomfortable pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. A visit to your doctor will determine if your symptoms warrant a carpal tunnel syndrome test. After a preliminary evaluation is complete your doctor will complete some of the tests we have listed below.
This carpal tunnel test is when your doctor presses down on your median nerve in your wrist to see if it causes any tingling or numbness in your fingers. It is often the first step in a comprehensive diagnosis.
Your doctor will have you place the back of your hands and fingers together with your fingers pointed downward in front of your chest. You will press until your wrists are completely flexed. A positive result typically occurs within one to two minutes.
Nerve Conduction Study
During a nerve conduction study, your doctor will send an electrical signal through your nerve. With this test, your doctor will be able to determine the severity of your disease and the type of treatment you need.
A carpal tunnel ultrasound uses sound waves to provide a visual of your bones and tissues. This picture will allow your doctor to see if there is compression on your median nerve.
A carpal tunnel x-ray is a great tool for finding any issues with your bone structure, like a fracture. It can also help your doctor see if you have arthritis or a ligament injury.
The last carpal tunnel syndrome test is an MRI. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans identify soft tissue causes for compression on your median nerve. It will also show if there is a tumor or scarring from a previous injury.
Carpal Tunnel Treatment
If carpal tunnel treatment is started early most people recover without needing surgery. Luckily, there are a wide range of treatment options available, from braces to carpal tunnel stretches.
Carpal Tunnel Wrist Support
A carpal tunnel wrist support is perfect for someone with mild carpal tunnel syndrome. You’ll be able to get back to all your favorite activities without worrying, with one of these wrist supports!
Carpal Tunnel Wrist Brace
Day or night, home or office, a wrist brace is an ideal solution for carpal tunnel. ( See Product on Amazon )
A carpal tunnel wrist brace is worn at night while you sleep. It keeps your wrist from bending and maintains your hand in a neutral position. This prevents placing any additional pressure on your median nerve.
Another type of carpal tunnel brace is this thumb splint. It should be worn while you participate in activities that worsen your carpal tunnel symptoms. Like a carpal tunnel wrist brace, this splint also keeps your hand in a neutral position, avoiding additional pressure on your nerve.
Carpal Tunnel Gloves
The best carpal tunnel gloves will provide gentle compression on your hand to decrease swelling. They allow plenty of breathability and won’t hinder any finger or hand movement.
Step 1: Place your hand in a straight, neutral position and make a fist with fingers and thumb.
Step 2: Open your hand and straighten your fingers and bring thumb to the side.
Step 3: Take wrist backward and extend it with your fingers and thumb still straight.
Step 4: Move your thumb away from palm.
Step 5: Rotate your palm so your fingers are away from you.
Step 6: Straighten your elbow.
Step 1: Extend your arms with hands out in front of you.
Step 2: Move your hands up, down, and in circles while your arms remain extended.
Steroid Injections for Carpal Tunnel
A cortisone shot is a type of carpal tunnel treatment that can alleviate your symptoms. The steroid reduces inflammation and swelling in the carpal tunnel. The relief may only be temporary.
Ibuprofen and naproxen decrease inflammation and reduce pain, making them an ideal way to reduce symptoms at home. NSAIDs work best for people with mild carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Your doctor might recommend carpal tunnel surgery if your symptoms do not get better or if the muscles in your thumb begin to waste. There are two types of surgery that will open the carpal tunnel and releave pressure on your median nerve.
Open Carpal Tunnel Release
During the open carpal tunnel release surgery, your surgeon makes an incision in your palm to see the inside of your hand and wrist. Then the surgeon will cut the carpal ligament to open up the carpal tunnel space relieving pressure on the nerve. The ligament will grow back together but will leave more room for the nerve.
Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release
An endoscopic carpal tunnel release is done with two very small incisions made in the palm and wrist. A small camera is placed through the incisions and the surgeon cuts the carpal ligament. Similar to the open carpal tunnel release surgery, the carpal ligament will grow back together.
Recovering from Carpal Tunnel
Your carpal tunnel surgery recovery time will depend on the severity of the disease. Many of your symptoms will immediately disappear, but your grip strength will take two to three months or longer to return. Expect some pain and stiffness immediately after surgery.
If you are lucky enough to avoid surgery you’ll find these tips for carpal tunnel relief indispensable in keeping your worst carpal tunnel symptoms at bay.
Learning to Prevent Carpal Tunnel
Anyone suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome knows the pain, numbness, and tingling can be debilitating. Learning how to prevent carpal tunnel and treating it with exercise, splints, and other home remedies can help avoid surgery. Review the above information, or get in touch with your doctor to learn more about how to prevent this disease.
Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.
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