From the cashier at the bank to the typist transcribing your doctor’s notes, it’s easy to find someone wearing a wrist brace to accommodate their carpal tunnel syndrome. With our constant texting, swiping and typing, carpal tunnel syndrome has become one of the most commonly diagnosed maladies having to do with modern technology. But carpal tunnel syndrome is so much more. Here’s what you need to know about carpal tunnel syndrome – what it is and some initial symptoms.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel is classified as a repetitive strain injury and occurs when the tendons next to the median nerve – which extends all the way from the center of your hand up to your forearm – becomes inflamed and presses on that nerve. This is one reason why many experience symptoms along the entire length of the nerve, including their fingers.
Recognizing Initial Symptoms
Most patients report a tingling in the fingers and hand as their first indication of issues related to carpal tunnel syndrome. The sensations are usually most prominent in the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers, but oddly enough not the pinky. Weakness often accompanies the tingling and is most noticeable when one wakes up from sleep; over time the sensations may affect the wrist and lower arm. Others note that it becomes harder to grasp onto and hold even smaller things, like coffee cups or water bottles. In the early stages, most patients say a good shake-out of their hands provides some relief, however, as the condition progresses, the tingling and numbness worsen and are often felt around the clock.
Mitigating factors, such as age, other medical conditions such as arthritis and work responsibilities and habits (e.g., painting, typing, using an adding machine) all can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. Even construction and factory workers who hold vibrating tools long enough can develop carpal tunnel symptom. Carpal tunnel syndrome affects women at a greater rate than men; this likely has to do with the tunnel being smaller in females. Certain chronic conditions that cause nerve damage – a prime example being diabetes – may increase risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Inflammatory and auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis also increase the risk. Even extreme fluid retention can lead to the onset of symptoms by putting pressure on the affected carpal.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The easiest way to prevent the onset or worsening of symptoms is by reducing stress to the affected areas. This can be done by relaxing one’s grip and using less force when hitting keys on a register or computer. Frequent breaks and stretching the wrists, and shaking out the hands and fingers will increase blood flow to the hands. Ergonomic keypads designed to reduce stress to the affected areas of the wrist and hands are also highly recommended. (Many work places have occupational health specialists that can assist you in providing an ergonomically correct work spaces and examine any habits or postures that can be harmful. Insurance companies may cover adaptive equipment to take the strain off wrists and hands.) One last tip is to ensure proper circulation of the hands and wrists – keep that blood flowing to the area. Don’t let hands get too cold. If the temperature at work is beyond control, wear fingerless gloves to keep hands and fingers warm.
Help! It is Carpal Tunnel!
Let the professionals at Balcones Pain Consultants assist you in the fight to conquer the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Don’t relegate yourself to wearing splints on both wrists. Act now before permanent damage occurs. You may speak to a professional now by calling (512) 834-4141 or make an appointment online here. There is life after carpal tunnel syndrome, but it is up to you to take the first step.