You hear people talking a lot about carpal tunnel syndrome in relation to those who play certain sports, work on some sort of assembly line, use a computer consistently for work, or play the piano. One might assume that the condition is caused by these activities, but it’s actually caused by the squeezing of a particular nerve that runs through your hand and forearm. While it can be a pretty simple task to identify the actual condition, identifying the exact cause of it can often be a challenge.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The term carpal tunnel actually refers to the narrow passageway that runs through the base of the palm side of your hand and wrist and is home to the median nerve and tendons. When the tunnel is large enough and not obstructed, your nerve functions as it is supposed to. However, if the tunnel becomes smaller due to swelling, the nerve can become compressed, causing the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
How Do I Know I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome typically comes on slowly, and generally begins with a tingling feeling in your hand, usually your thumb, index, and middle fingers. People complain of the tingling most often while driving or after waking up in the morning. Some patients describe it as an electrical buzzing sensation. The discomfort may remain localized in those areas, but may also travel up to your arm. In some patients, this feeling is temporary and comes and goes based on certain tasks, while others report the discomfort as being constant. In addition to the discomfort, carpal tunnel syndrome might manifest itself in a weakened grip, you might find yourself dropping objects, or experiencing numbness while holding a phone or driving.
What Puts Me At Risk?
Some risk factors for the condition are out of your control, like the fact that it is more common in women and sometimes affects people who were simply born with a smaller carpal tunnel than others. Other risk factors that contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome can include an injury that altered the bone structure of the wrist and hand, certain chronic illnesses like diabetes, inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, changes in your body fluids through pregnancy or menopause, and workplace factors.
Can It Be Avoided?
Totally avoiding the condition isn’t possible, but there are some methods we recommend which can reduce the strain on your hands and wrists. Proper posture is important, as is relaxing your wrist position while typing or using a keyboard and computer mouse. When you’re working and using your wrists frequently, make sure to keep a light grip and take breaks to stretch your hands and wrist from time to time. Additionally, cold hands are more likely to be affected, so if you work in a cold environment, consider using fingerless gloves when typing in order to keep your hands warm.
When Should I See A Doctor?
If you found yourself identifying with any of the above, you should contact NewSouth NeuroSpine for a physical exam and we can evaluate and diagnose your condition. We typically diagnose through a physical exam and an EMG, which measures muscle response to nerve stimulation. Depending on your symptoms, we usually approach with a conservative treatment method including a wrist brace, physical therapy, medications and sometimes injections to help manage your pain. In extreme cases, we may also recommend surgical options. When you visit NewSouth NeuroSpine, we will approach your individual case and develop a treatment plan to suit your needs, as well as follow up and adjustments when needed. Contact us today to set up an appointment.