Carpal Tunnel Syndrome involves a cluster of symptoms that revolve around the hands and the wrists.
The Carpal Tunnel itself is an area of the wrist between the carpal bones, ten small bones found in the wrist, and the Flexor Retinaculum, a strong ligament that attaches the carpal bones on both sides of the wrist.
Also passing through this area, however, is the Median Nerve.
The Median Nerve provides feeling and movement to many areas of the hand including the palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger on its thumb side.
During repetitive activities of any nature, excessive pressure can irritate or compress the Median Nerve, causing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and its related symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness and weakness.
Factor it In: Other Related Factors of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Disproportionately, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs in women between the ages of 30 and 60.
The dominant hand is usually the first to be affected by this disorder, resulting in the most severe symptoms.
Aside from repetitive activities, there are many factors to consider when evaluating this condition and the severity with which it is experienced.
Individuals can environmentally control some of the factors that can promote the onset of this condition, although some have genetic components as well.
The top factors of this sort are alcohol abuse, mental stress, smoking and obesity. Hormonal changes and genetic factors can also be related to the Carpal Tunnel.
Many women experience the condition during pregnancy because of fluid retention. Older women typically experience Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during menopause due to the associated hormonal changes that occur.
Additionally, the strongest genetic component of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is family-related, as disorders and other diseases that can lead to the development of this disorder have genetic ties themselves.
There are several of these pre-existing health conditions that can affect the development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in individuals.
Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis can all hold implications for an individual’s likelihood of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Most of these conditions relate to the Carpal Tunnel due to their own effects on nerve sensations, like in Diabetes, or because they damage the area of the wrist and hand most affected by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Consider the Symptoms
There are many interrelated, gradual symptoms that can indicate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, all of which center around problems with the hands and wrists.
Often times, a person suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will feel the need to shake out their hands or wrists frequently.
As symptoms worsen, however, this sensation will be more frequent, making simple tasks increasingly difficult to perform.
The sensation of numbness or tingling in the hand when gripping objects or in the palm of the hand is one indication of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Along similar lines, weakness and the inability to use ones hands for normal functioning is another sign of the condition. The weakness can be throughout one, or both hands.
There is also pain that can be associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This pain is not limited to just the hands, however. It can extend all the way up to the elbow.
A more extreme symptom is actual muscle deterioration. In most cases, this involves the wasting away of the muscle located under the thumb.
However, this occurs only in long-term cases, and those who have just begun experiencing symptoms need not concern them self with this problem.
Diagramming a Diagnosis
To avoid permanent damage to the Median Nerve, the main nerve affected by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it is important to address the pain as early as possible.
For those who believe that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the sourceof their pain or discomfort, doctors will examine factors such as tenderness, swelling and discoloration as well as muscle atrophy around the wrist and base of the hand.
There are also specific tests employed to check for specific symptoms and signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
The Tinel test is one such test, in which a doctor either taps on or presses on the Median Nerve.
A positive diagnosis would result from this if a patient feels tingling or a shocking sensation in their fingers due to this test.
Doctors will often ask a patient to execute a movement that triggers the pain or sensations that they experience on a daily basis, making it easier for them to rule one way or another if Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the cause of such discomfort.
Overwhelmingly, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is confirmed by using electrodiagnostic tests, especially due to the involvement of nerves in the disorder.
Also, an ultrasound can depict the movement of the Median Nerve, making it easy for doctors to make a diagnosis.
Positive Prognosis: Treatment
For many people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, symptoms can be relieved through non-surgical treatments or minor surgical procedures.
Seeking out treatment is the best way to avoid the potential for chronic pain, a scathing reality for those who cannot, or simply do not, choose to proceed with treatment.
Non-surgical treatments are often a good choice for those who want to avoid surgery but be granted relief from their symptoms.
Various drugs have been known to ease the pain associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome including aspirin, ibuprofen and other pain relievers that an individual can buy without a prescription.
Diuretics can decrease swelling and corticosteroids can be injected or taken by mouth to relieve the pressure exerted on the Median Nerve.
In addition to drugs, exercise and alternative therapies such as acupuncture or chiropractic treatment can help alleviate symptoms once more direct steps have been taken to treat the disorder.
For those who require surgery, Carpal Tunnel Release is one of the most common procedures to treat those who have experienced symptoms for at least six months.
It is a very minor, outpatient procedure that involves cutting the band of tissue in the wrist to alleviate the pressure on, and around, the Median Nerve.
Often, people will get the surgery performed on both hands, as symptoms are typically experienced in both.
Wheeling and Dealing With Chronic Pain
Although uncommon, there is chronic pain associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, often seen most frequently in the elderly.
Chronic pain is often the result of permanent nerve damage that can occur when the disorder remains untreated or ignored.
Chronic pain for this disorder means irreversible numbness, muscle atrophy and weakness for those suffering from the disorder.
While debilitating and intimidating, there are ways for individuals to cope with this pain and enjoy a high quality of life.
The biggest thing to remember for those who suffer from chronic pain is to not simply rest your wrist or hands because they may hurt.
Keeping your wrists and hands loose is important so as to not make the condition even more severe.
Moving your hands in circular motions for just a couple of minutes is sufficient to release tension while improving circulation and blood flow to your hands.
A wrist splint is another good option for those suffering from chronic pain. Keeping your wrist immobile during strenuous activities known to irritate the pain associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a good way to prevent worsening the pain.
However, a wrist splint shouldn’t be worn during activities such as typing, as this can have similar effects as not using your hands or wrists at all.
Most importantly, if you are executing an activity known to aggravate your symptoms, always take short breaks and stretch so as to not worsen the condition.
Another simple option is to apply an ice pack to your wrist when you are experiencing the painful symptoms of the disorder.
Because of the swelling associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, ice is one of the most basic ways to reduce this symptom as it worsens.
Because blood flow is important to reduce pain as well, keep an ice pack on your wrist for 20-minute intervals so as to alleviate swelling while also encouraging blood flow.
Sometimes the best solutions for chronic pain can be solutions that are applicable to a wide range of conditions.
If you suffer the chronic pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, getting involved in a hobby or activity can take your mind off of the pain while allowing you to do something that you thoroughly enjoy.
Additionally, a hobby can reduce the anxiety that accompanies chronic pain, lessening the symptoms themselves.
Seeking out a hobby that doesn’t involve your hands is obviously the key, and doing so is good for your health, both mentally and physically.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Solutions
There are no easy solutions or quick fixes for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and the chronic pain that often manifests from it.
Anyone suffering from this disorder must simply explore the options available to them in order to find what works, and what doesn’t work.
Combining treatment methods such as surgery and a hobby or exercise is often more effective than pursuing just one treatment.
For those dedicated to overcoming their chronic pain, experimentation is the solution, offering ways to live fulfilling lives with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.