The carpal tunnel is a slender pathway that is enclosed by bones and ligaments on the palm side of your hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a usual condition where you experience pain, numbness, and tingling in your hands as well as arms. This condition happens when one of the pivotal nerves (median nerve) is clasped or compressed as it passes away through the wrist.
Though carpal tunnel syndrome appears slowly, it may get shoddier with time. But if you go for early carpal tunnel syndrome treatment, you can get instant relief from this disorder.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome could be:
- Numbness, stinging, burning, and pain primarily in your thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers
- Irregular shock-like sensations
- Pain or tingling that used to shift from the forearm toward the shoulder
- Feebleness and clumsiness in the hands (it may be difficult for you to move your hands for activities like buttoning your clothes)
- Due to weakness or numbness, you can’t grasp objects or things properly
Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- A fracture of your risk or dislocation
- Arthritis that causes small bones’ deformation in the wrist
- People with smaller carpal tunnels are more susceptible to have carpal tunnel syndrome
- This syndrome is more popular in women
- Certain prolonged diseases, such as diabetes may enhance the chance of nerve damage
- Rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions may cause inflammation that affects the lining around the tendons in your wrist
- Some studies have claimed that people who use anastrozole (Arimidex) may develop carpal tunnel pain and syndrome
- Obese people are more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome
- Carpal tunnel syndrome is common during pregnancy and menopause. This syndrome gets better after pregnancy.
- Some healthcare conditions like menopause, thyroid disorders, kidney failure, and lymphedema may enhance the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome
- Working with vibrating tools may create harmful pressure on the median nerve or damage the nerve
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosis
One may diagnose CTS with self-examination by tapping the wrist to note the sensation of numbness or tingling in fingers and wrist. Besides, one may try flexing the wrist for a minute and check whether there is pain, if yes, then it is CTS. Apart from these self-examinations, one may get the following tests done to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Nerve Conduction Study
- Tinel’s Test
- Phalen’s Test for Wrist Flexion
- MRI Scan
11 Carpal Tunnel Relief Treatment
The main aim of any type of carpal tunnel syndrome treatment is to get relief from the pain by reducing the pressure exerted on the median nerve of your hand. Those suffering from mild symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome need not get any specific treatment for the same, as it usually gets away on its own within a few months. In case of severe or acute pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome, one may try the following treatment options:
- Self-care is the primary step that helps you to deal with this syndrome. You can put ice on your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes, once or twice an hour.
- You can shake your wrist gently at night to ease your pain
- If you keep your hands in heat (around 100 F) and extend your wrist 3-4 times per day
- Keep resting your hands or wrist as much as possible.
- Don’t indulge in those activities that trigger your symptoms
- To get relief from pain, take over-the-counter medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen
2. Wrist Braces
Braces are the best solution if you have mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. Though they may not be efficient for all, they don’t cause any side effects. Wear the brace for at least 3-4 weeks to show the improvement.
Your doctor will advise you to wear the brace at bedtime. This is because people mostly twist their wrists when they sleep, thus your symptoms will get aggravated at night. You may even wear a brace during the day while doing activities.
3. Tweak Your Activities
Carpal tunnel syndrome gets worse if you hold your hand and wrist in the same position for a longer period. So, the ideal way is to keep it in a straight or neutral position. If your activities prevent you from doing it, then you can try the following things.
- Don’t work at a stretch. Take a break for 10-15 minutes every hour and expand your hands
- Talk to your company’s management if they can change your desk or setup
- Use alternate hands to accomplish your activities
- Don’t grab your instrument or tool very tightly or pound away at your keyboard
- Monitor your posture
4. Controlling the Triggers
Most importantly, try to control whatever triggers your carpal tunnel pain. This kind of pain usually occurs due to repetitive movement of the hand, so a person should avoid this rapid hand movement trigger.
You may also try some exercises to experience relief from the CTS signs. However, make sure to consult with your doctor or physiotherapist to learn about the safe exercises, to avoid worsening your condition.
Corticosteroids like cortisone, are effective drugs that can reduce pain and swelling. Most people used to take these medications as pills. Your doctor will give you this as a shot in your wrist that hits into the carpal tunnel. Though this gives you short-term relief from pain and inflammation, this is not a long-term solution.
7. Physical and Occupational Therapy
A professional physiotherapist will help you to deal with the situation. They will give you some basic exercises to stretch and fortify your hand as well as wrist muscles. They will also guide you in changing your routine motions so that you may have less strain on your hands and wrists. This is beneficial if you have carpal tunnel syndrome due to your activities or hobbies.
Initially, the doctor will try to treat your carpal tunnel symptoms by prescribing certain medicines like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin.
9. Alternative Medicine
Some people may opt for alternative or complementary medications to ease carpal tunnel syndrome. But consult with your doctor before trying it. Some options are,
- Yoga: Several studies have proved that yoga helps you to overcome pain and boosts grip strength
- Ultrasound therapy: By using waves, this treatment enhances the temperature in your hand and wrist. The heat will give freedom from pain and help with healing.
- Acupuncture: Many experts believe that acupuncture is beneficial in treating carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you don’t get relief from your symptoms in 6 months, your doctor will suggest tunnel release surgery. There are primarily two types of surgery. In open surgery, the surgeon will make an opening about 2 inches long and do what is needed. With endoscopic surgery, the openings will be smaller and by using a camera, your doctor will perform the surgery.
In order to reduce the inflammation occurring due to this syndrome, the doctor may inject you with a botox injection directly into your carpal tunnel.
The Bottom Line
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a curable health condition. However, if despite changing your lifestyle, restricting your hand movements, and taking medicines, you are not experiencing any sort of relief, then do consult your doctor again. It may be some other condition along with carpal tunnel syndromes like tendonitis, or arthritis. In such cases, recovery may take time and if precautions are not taken, once cured, CTS may recur again. So, try to restrict your hand and wrist movements to experience relief from carpal tunnel syndrome even after successful treatment.