Bearing in mind our stressful lifestyles, carpal tunnel syndrome or the compression of the median nerve has become a common ailment these days. Prevalent mostly amongst women since they have smaller carpal tunnels, a lot of people who engage in laborious hand motions throughout the day have experienced discomfort and tingling sensation in their wrists, hands or fingers. The reason – the median nerve which runs through your arms and is responsible for sensation in your fingers except the pinky finger is either squeezed or swollen. But before we dive deep into all the hows, whats and whys, let’s first learn a little bit more about the median nerve and the carpal tunnel.
What is the Median Nerve?
Connecting your arm to your forearms, the median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel and is responsible not only for controlling the sensation and flexes in your thumb, index, middle and half of your ring finger but also sending signals to the muscles around the thumb and palm side of the thumb. So, anything that causes discomfort to this one nerve can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is a Carpal Tunnel?
Our wrist if haven’t noticed already is like a tunnel or tube through which the median nerve and tendons run along connecting the arm to the forearm. The tunnel has carpal bones on one side in the form of a semi-circle and on top of these bones is a strong ligament that holds this semi-circle together. Protecting the median nerve and tendons inside, any fracture or an overworked wrist can affect the median nerve thus resulting in a tingling, burning or numbness through the arm, hand or fingers.
During the initial stages, people usually shake off the numbness or tingling sensation. But you need to seek your doctor’s attention if the numbness, especially at night, persists or if you aren’t able to feel sensation or objects in your hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome may be a common condition but at the chronic stage may require several precautionary treatments and even surgery to mend the median nerve.
Read along to know more about the causes, symptoms and preventive measures one can adopt to avoid severe repercussions.
There are several reasons why you could be suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Some of them are as follows:
- Your job requires strenuous hand movements like hammering, typing, etc., that could increase the pressure on the median nerve or tendons.
- Small carpal tunnels, which are mostly found in women or passed down through hereditary have a higher risk of affecting the median nerve due to limited space for movements.
- Pressure on hand and wrist for prolonged hours. Extreme flexing or keeping your hand or wrists in the same position for too long can affect the nerves.
- The syndrome is found to be common amongst pregnant women too, as the hormonal changes could lead to swelling of the median nerve.
- Fractured or dislocated wrists.
- And last but not the least, people with conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance are more prone to median nerve compression as well.
The symptoms for carpal tunnel syndrome are very common and we bet most of you must have experienced the initial stages at least once in their lifetime. The feeling of waking up with numb arms, hands or fingers. The deadness you feel in your arms after holding a book, phone or driving for too long are all due to increased pressure on the median nerve. In such cases, people usually shake out the hand to relieve the tingling or numbness. However, the syndrome could be severe if you have the following symptoms:
- Chronic pain, burning sensation, numbness or tingling in the thumb, index, middle or palm areas.
- Loss of sensation in the fingers or if you are having trouble holding things.
- Sudden current-like sensations traveling from the shoulder, arm to the fingers.
- A feeling of weakness in your hands that might make the most doable job like drinking tea difficult for you.
- Night-time chronic numbness that persists throughout the day.
Whether the pain is chronic or not, it’s always advisable to seek a doctor’s help rather than self-diagnosing and following procedures from the internet. On the other hand, increase pressure on the affected median nerve could result in need of surgery or even permanent damage. Here are some of the preventive measures that a doctor might suggest pertaining to your condition:
- A change in lifestyle and avoiding certain activities to lessen the pain and help the nerve heal.
- Stretching! Exercising your wrists, hands, and arms regularly to improve flexibility and suppleness. In some cases, the doctor may advise physiotherapy to improve mobility.
- Wear a splint to prevent wrist movements and to lessen the pain. Wearing one at night might reduce the numbness too.
- If the pain is chronic, the doctor may prescribe medication to reduce the swelling and discomfort.
- However, only in the most severe cases, you might need surgery to mend the median nerve.
There are several measures one can adopt to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Such as:
- Take 15 minutes break from time-to-time to let your hands recoup from strenuous movements.
- Brace your hands or wear a splint to keep your wrists straight.
- Avoid excessive wrist stretching or wrist cracking.
- Pamper your hands by massaging them lightly around the wrist and palm or immerse them in lukewarm water.
- Be cautious while working and do not hold or fold your hands in one position for too long.
Carpal tunnel syndrome may be a common ailment but not the one to be ignored. Don’t let the occasional shooting pain and numbness turn into a chronic condition. Exercise the preventive measures or speak to your doctor if the symptoms get severe. We hope this complete guide on carpal tunnel syndrome gives deep insight and help you understand the condition better. And if you have a suggestion, story or feedback about carpal tunnel syndrome, share your thoughts in the comments below!