Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

by Amy Pusey
(last updated April 22, 2009)

Computer technicians, data entry specialists, administrative assistants, even factory line workers. One thing they may all have in common is chronic wrist pain due to the repetitive nature of their daily work. This is what is commonly referred to as, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If this term is unfamiliar to you, you may be wondering, 'what is a carpal?' and 'where is the tunnel?' Well, that is easily answered, and it is not as mysterious as it may sound. The carpal tunnel is likened to a tube located within your wrist, and it is made up of three carpal bones connected in a half-moon with the tube-shape completed by a ligament on the fourth side. Inside that tunnel we have a nerve, several tendons, and tissue that protect the tendons. All of this fits comfortably inside this tunnel, and the tissue will periodically swell in order to protect the tendons. However, when it continues or remains swollen, it then presses on the nerve creating the discomfort or severe pain you may feel in your wrist.

Now, that you know what it is, there are several symptoms that you can look to identify to determine if you may be experiencing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. They include:

  • Tingling and numbness: this classic symptom will appear in the thumb, index and middle fingers; yes, all three.
  • Aching in forearm: this second classic symptom will cause the pain to radiate between the fingers and the elbow, and make present a weakened grip.
  • Tingling fingers: you may experience tingling in all fingers, fingertips, or alternating fingers.
  • Tingling thumb or middle finger: the sensation may be felt in one or the other, or possibly both.
  • Aching hand: you have an occasional or constant ache in your hand, and it may be accompanied by pain.
  • Pain to shoulder or back: another symptom is to have radiating pain from your hand toward your shoulder and/or back.

If you have been experiencing some of the minor symptoms for a short period of time, sometimes giving your hands a break of what you are doing, and give your hands a good shake because this motion will help alleviate the pressure on the nerve inside your wrist. In addition, the position in which you sleep can create tingling and numbness in your hands and wrist because most of us move around a lot when we sleep. In the process, our hands can become hyperextended, which is when it is extended beyond its normal range of movement (bent backwards,) or it can become hyperflexed, which is the opposite and is when the angle between the joint and bones is made smaller (bent forward toward the wrist.)

Depending on the severity of the condition, a doctor may determine that with a mild case a course of physical therapy, heat applications, or possibly massage therapy will be suitable to eliminate the discomfort associated, along with the recommendation to alter your routine. However, if the case is more serious and requires a more in-depth treatment, there are a number of remedies available. Beginning with the less intrusive, they include:

  • Splint (or Brace): A wrist splint or brace may be prescribed for the less serious of cases, and its purpose is to immobilize the wrist to alleviate the pressure placed on the nerve. Usually suggested for night to use, it may also be beneficial to wear it during the day.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NAIDs): Anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to reduce swelling and eliminate pain. They are not intended to cure the condition, and are typically quite effective when used with the non-surgical treatments, including the splint, as well as heat, physical, and massage therapies.
  • Cortisone Injections: A steroidal drug, cortisone is injected into the affected area. The drug works to reduce the swelling around the tendons, and subsequently helps eliminate the pressure experienced on the nerve. This affects of this treatment may last as long as six months, but if additional cortisone shots are needed sooner, they may only be obtained every six weeks.
  • Surgery: There are two types of surgical procedures available for alleviating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Endoscopic surgery uses a tool called, an endoscope, which has a tiny camera at the end of it; the surgeon uses this tool to make very small cuts within the hand and wrist. It is a very precise procedure, so it is important to select a physician who specializes in it. Alternately, in open incision surgery, the doctor makes a cut in wrist above the carpal tunnel to release the pressure on the nerve. Both surgeries are typically performed using a local anesthesia, and is generally an outpatient procedure.

Often, changes must be made to your daily routine or lifestyle in order for treatments to remain effective, and to prevent re-occurrences of any familiar symptoms. When you have become comfortable with those changes, you will find that you can live a pain-free life and maintain unrestricted mobility of your hands and wrists.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for Tips.net, as well as a resume writer for GreenThumbResumes.com. ...

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