You may have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, but do you know what it is?
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may be experiencing numbness, tingling (pins and needles), weakness, and other problems in your hand caused by pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. The median nerve and several tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel.
With repetitive or excessive movement of your hand, the lubrication system may stop working properly and not produce enough fluid. Alternatively, it may produce a fluid with inadequate lubricating qualities.
When the lubrication system fails, friction is created between the tendon and its sheath, which causes swelling and inflammation of the tendon area. The swelling then squeezes the median nerve in your wrist or carpal tunnel. If there is lots of inflammation, this can also cause fibrous tissue to form. The fibrous tissue then thickens the tendon sheath, and this in turn hinders the movement of your tendon.
Repetitive activities irritate nerves and tendons, resulting in swelling, pain, and loss of muscle strength. This is also known as Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI’s)…with one of the most common RSI being carpal tunnel syndrome.
In addition to repetitive activities, other things that may contribute to this include:
• Strong gripping
• Mechanical stress on your palm
• Awkward hand positions
In addition to numbness, tingling, and weakness, other common signs of carpal tunnel syndrome include: aching, a weaker grip, or you may also have the tendency to drop things.
Who is most at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome?
People who are most at risk are those who participate in activities and sports or work in jobs that require the same motion over and over again. This has the potential to create stress on your wrists.
• Participants of racquet sports
• Sewers / Knitters
• Those who weed by hand (gardening)
• Farmers (milking cows)
• Those who use various hand tools, including ones that vibrate
People often think that improper positioning of the hands and wrists while typing can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, however, studies have not yet proved this. That said, this could lead to bursitis or tendinitis in the hand, which could then narrow the carpal tunnel and possibly lead to symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?
For more mild cases, one should avoid any type of activities that may irritate or aggravate the injury and combine that with anti-inflammatories, lots of rest, ice packs, or a splint. It is a good idea for the patient to also wear the splint while not working and also while sleeping.
For more serious cases, surgery may be necessary, but it should not be the first form of treatment, because there is a chance the problems could still linger after surgery.