Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) forms when the nerve that runs down the middle of your wrist (called the median nerve) is squeezed as it passes through a short, narrow tunnel between your wrist bones. The squeezing causes pressure on the nerve, which is felt as numbness, pain, and tingling in the hands.
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, don’t panic. There are many ways you can improve your condition. Here’s what you need to know about carpal tunnel.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel?
The median nerve runs through the forearm to the hand in a passage known as the carpal tunnel. The nerve is responsible for driving signals to the base of the thumb for motor function of all the fingers except the little finger. Any condition that irritates or squeezes the median nerve could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition is often a result of multiple risk factors. The common causes of CTS include:
- problemsInflammation of the tendons
- Cysts in the carpal tunnel
- A wrist fracture
- Repetitive forceful movements, such as using a screwdriver or typing
What Are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel symptoms usually range from mild to severe. They include:
- Pain in the hands
- Clumsiness or dropping things unintentionally
- Swollen and heavy fingers
- Weakening of the pinch grip
- Tingling that gets worse at night or early in the morning
- Muscle weakness near the base of the thumb
How Do You Know if it’s Arthritis or Carpal Tunnel?
Both of these ailments usually affect the hands and wrists and they have similar symptoms including pain, hand weakness, and numbness. But, if you closely examine your symptoms, it’s easy to see the difference between arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Arthritis is a disorder of the joints due to inflammation. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the weakness of the median nerves in the wrist and its defining symptom is tingling in the hand.
While it’s possible to differentiate these two conditions, it is always best to get diagnosed by a licensed medical inspector. This will ensure that you are getting treated for a condition that you’re actually suffering from.
Is Carpal Tunnel a Serious Condition?
In most cases, carpal tunnel syndrome will worsen. If left untreated for a long time, it could lead to permanent hand dysfunction. For this reason, it’s crucial to treat carpal tunnel syndrome as early as possible.
Does Carpal Tunnel Fully Heal?
Yes, it does. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be cured. If your situation is severe, surgery can help, but the symptoms may not disappear completely.
What Can Make Carpal Tunnel Worse?
Activities that require you to constantly use your hands and wrists—like knitting, painting, and texting—can cause carpal tunnel syndrome to develop and get worse. These types of activities can ramp up inflammation in your wrists, which contribute to the pressure on your wrist nerve and the pain and numbness in your wrist. Try taking significant breaks from activities that put pressure and repetitive stress on your wrist and hands.
Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Go Away on its Own?
Once you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, it is very unlikely that it will go away without treatment. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that surgery is the only available option. There are many conservative actions you can take to treat carpal tunnel.
How Can You Prevent and Manage Carpal Tunnel?
Surgery is not the only treatment option for carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are some ways you can prevent and manage CTS.
1. Wear a Wrist Brace
Wearing a wrist brace helps relieve pain and inflammation as well as ease the symptoms of CTS. Sleeping with a flexed wrist or your hand in a fist can irritate the nerves and put extra pressure on the affected area. Wearing a carpal tunnel wrist brace keeps your fingers, hand, and wrist in a neutral position which helps to ease the pain and swelling.
2. Use Ergonomic Tools
If you type or use your hands a lot at work, ergonomic devices can help you manage carpal tunnel syndrome. They ensure that your hand, wrist, and fingers stay in a neutral posture as you go on with your daily activities.
3. Consider Acupuncture
Acupuncture helps patients achieve pain relief by boosting the level of endorphins in the body. It also improves blood flow, which in turn helps to ease the symptoms of CTS. If you decide to go for acupuncture sessions, ensure you choose a licensed acupuncture therapist.
4. Purchase Hand Exercisers
Using hand exercisers is a great way to extend your tendons to their optimum potential. This helps to reduce the swelling around your median nerve and alleviate your pain. Hand exercisers can also help you regain your lost hand strength. Hand exercisers include hand exercise balls, hand grips, pinch exercisers, palm cones, and arm skates.
What Type of Brace is Best for Carpal Tunnel?
The best wrist brace for carpal tunnel syndrome is the one that resembles a fingerless glove. It will stabilize your wrist in a comfortable but slightly bent-back posture to minimize pressure on the median nerve.
Should You Wear Carpal Tunnel Brace All Day?
It is advisable to wear carpal tunnel braces during the day, especially if you’ll engage in activities that typically trigger the symptoms of the condition. You can wear a brace for a maximum of six hours during the day. The brace should be worn for 2-hour long periods with an hour of rest in between.
You should not wear a brace at night when you are sleeping.
Does Carpal Tunnel Qualify for Disability?
If you’ve been diagnosed with carpal tunnel and your symptoms are severe enough to affect your ability to work, you may be eligible for disability privileges. However, these benefits may only be provided by an insurance plan that covers both long and short-term disability benefits.
Carpal tunnel is treatable. Consider consulting a physiotherapist to rule out other medical conditions and get proper medical advice.