If you are noticing that you are experiencing sensations of tingling, weakness, or numbness in your hand, you should consider speaking with your physician about whether you may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome.
The condition of carpal tunnel syndrome is distinguished by these sensations and if the result of pressure being placed on your median nerve.
This nerve runs the length of your arm, passes through a passageway in your wrist (known as the carpal tunnel), and comes to an end in your hand.
This median nerve controls all of the movement and feeling in your thumb and all of your fingers, with the exception of your pinky finger.
In most cases, individuals with the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome are unsure what exactly brought on their carpal tunnel syndrome. Some of the following could be the cause of your condition:
- Repetitive motions, such as typing, or any other motions of your wrist that you perform over and over again. This is especially true when your hands are lower than your wrist
- Conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypothyroidism, and rheumatoid arthritis
If you have the signs and symptoms of the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome and you do not seek treatment, it is possible that the symptoms will last for a long time, get worse, or even clear up for a period of time and then come back.
The earlier you receive a diagnosis and treatment from your physician, the better your chances for a full recovery are.
Signs and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you have the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome, you are most likely to feel an itching numbness, burning, or tingling sensation in the palm of your hand as well as in your thumb, index, and/or middle fingers.
Chances are that the first thing you will notice is that your fingers often “fall asleep” and you have a numb sensation at night.
This will typically happen in the evenings because your hands are often more relaxed- after all, you’re most likely relaxing at home instead of working- and it often happens while sleeping.
You will often wake in the mornings with tingling and numbness in your hands that often runs all the way to your shoulder.
Severe Cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As your condition of carpal tunnel syndrome becomes worse over time, your grip strength will be affected because the muscles in your hand will shrink.
In addition, the muscle cramping and pain will increase. Due to the pressure and aggravation of the median nerve, it will begin to lose its ability to function, which will lead to the following:
- Loss of sensation in fingers
- Slower impulses of nerves
- Loss of coordination and strength- especially pinching with your thumb.
- Permanent muscle damage
- Loss of function in hand
Due to these extreme occurrences, you do not want to put off seeing a physician if you suspect that you may have the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome. It is best to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.
Who is at Risk for Developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
There are a few medical conditions that increase your risk of developing the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome, including the following:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Due to their smaller stature, and smaller carpal tunnel, women are much more likely than men to develop this condition.
In fact, research shows that women are 3 times more likely to develop it than men. If a woman develops this condition as a result of becoming pregnant, it will most likely clear up within a few months following delivery.
In addition, there are specific jobs that increase your risk for developing this condition. This is due to the fact that you are repeating the same motions over and over for an extended period of time. Some of these jobs include the following:
- Hair stylist
- Assembly line worker
Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you are experiencing the symptoms of the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome, you need to see your physician as soon as possible.
He or she will most likely ask you to tap the palm side of your wrist or to fully flex your wrist with your arms extended out completely.
There is another test that is known as the EMG-NCV. This will measure the nerve functioning across the carpal tunnel. This will help to determine the level of damage and the severity of your condition.
Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Just as with other conditions, there are some conservative treatments that you can do on your own and there are some more extreme treatments, such as surgery. Following is an explanation of a few of the options for treatment:
Changes in lifestyle: if your condition of carpal tunnel syndrome is a result of repetitive motions, you can make some changes by taking breaks on a regular basis, or doing less of the activity that is resulting in your pain. In addition, there are certain strengthening exercises and stretches that could be beneficial.
Immobilization: in some cases, your physician may recommend that you use a splint or brace to keep your wrist immobilized in order to reduce the pressure on your nerves.
Often, it is recommended that you wear it at night to relieve that tingling/numb sensation and to help you get better sleep and give your median nerve some rest.
Medication: in addition to the above, your physician may also recommend steroid shots or oral OTC/prescription anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling.
Surgery: finally, if the above treatment options to not work or you have delayed treatment, surgery may be an option for you- speak with your physician.
Tips for Self-Care Treatments
There are some things you can do on your own to help reduce the signs and symptoms of your condition:
- Keep wrists as straight as possible
- Use splint/brace to keep wrist neutral
- Speak with your physician about exercises/stretches
- Avoid flexing/extending wrist
- Practice proper ergonomics while working
Rearrange work/activity area to minimize discomfort