Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 101

If you spend a lot of time doing repetitive motion hand or wrist tasks in your job, hobby or sport, chances are you will experience the numbness and pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are able to identify and treat it early on you will save yourself a lot of pain and aggravation.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome:

There is a tunnel-like structure in the palm side of your wrist called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve that controls feeling in the palm side of the fingers passes through this tunnel. The nine flexor tendons that bend the fingers and thumb also travel through the carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when pressure caused by swelling of tissues surrounding the flexor tendons puts pressure on the median nerve. This pressure on the nerve produces the numbness, pain and eventually the hand weakness that characterizes carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What are the symptoms:

Carpal tunnel symptoms normally increase very gradually and at the start may only be present during the night. You may get carpal tunnel in one or both wrists. Here are some of the normal symptoms: Numbness, burning or tingling in your hand or fingers. It usually occurs in your thumb, index, middle or ring finger (not your little finger). This sensation can often occur when holding the steering wheel, book, newspaper or phone. As the condition get's worse the numbness may  become constant. Pain extending or radiating from the wrist up to the arm to the shoulder or down to your palm or fingers. These symptoms especially happen after repetitive or forceful use.You will usually notice this on the palm side of your forearm. Weakness in the fingers or hand.Eventually there may be a tendency to drop objects.

What are the risk factors:

  • Tasks that involve repetitive, forceful, awkward or stressed motions of your hands and wrist can cause carpal tunnel. It's not surprising that working at a computer for long hours is suspected to be a major cause of carpal tunnel.
  • A traumatic wrist injury like fractures and sprains
  • Congenital - some people naturally have a narrower carpal tunnel. If your close relatives have had the condition, you may also have inherited the risk characteristics.
  • Health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, obesity or thyroid problems.
  • Women are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Women who are going through hormone changes because of pregnancy, oral contraceptives or menopause are at increased risk.
  • The disease occurs more frequently in older people

Treatment Options:

Most doctors will initially recommend a conservative treatment plan. The first period of treatment will include rest of the wrist and  immobilization with a carpal tunnel splint as shown below. If there is evidence of inflammation or swelling a cold therapy wrap will help provide relief. In addition your doctor may prescribe ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Diuretics  (water pills) are sometimes prescribed to clear fluid retention. If appropriate, your doctor may inject cortisone into the carpal tunnel.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="109" class=" "]LP Wrist Splint 725 An LP Wrist Splint that aids in the treatment of carpal tunnel.[/caption] [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="111" class=" "]Bird and Cronin U2 Universal Wrist Brace A Bird and Cronin wrist brace featuring a comfortable construction and support.[/caption] [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="99" class=" "]Cold One Wrist Wrap A Cold One carpal tunnel cold therapy wrap, which is also useful for other issues requiring cold therapy.[/caption]
If the carpal tunnel can be controlled by immobilization and medications, stretching and strengthening exercises can be used to help prevent a reoccurrence of the symptoms. If all exercises aren't pain free go back to the first step. Suggest to your doctor that he prescribe some physical therapy. A physical therapist will help you set up an efficient set of exercises and stretches and make sure your technique is correct. When the pain or numbness persists more than six months, surgery may be the best option. Surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis and full recovery can take several months.

Helpful hints to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • When using a keyboard keep it at elbow height or slightly lower.
  • Use less force and relax your grip when using your hands in tasks like typing, handwriting or using tools.
  • Give your hands and wrist a break by gently stretching and bending them every so often.
  • Make sure you have good posture and don't let your neck and shoulders roll forward.
  • Keep your hands warm, especially if you are in a cold environment.
About the Author: Bruce is the president of Return2Fitness, an online sports medical resource and product center. His "entrepreneurial spirit" has resulted in the founding or acquisition of 20 companies during his 39 year career. Bruce is not a medical professional so please consult your local specialist before making any changes in the treatment of any injury or condition. Thanks for reading my post! For more information connect with me: Return2FitnessEmailLinkedInFacebookSquidoo

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3 comments


  • Hand and wrist exercises may help reduce the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist.

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  • nice information on carpal tunnel..Pain radiating or extending from your wrist up your arm to your shoulder or down into your palm or fingers, especially after forceful or repetitive use. This usually occurs on the palm side of your forearm. Is one of the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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