What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
You could be doing anything; washing the dishes, gardening, or typing a report for work when the first tingling, numbness and weakness in your hands and wrist begins. You probably ignore it, thinking its just a muscle cramp from working so hard. These symptoms progress gradually over weeks, months, and sometimes maybe even years. Then one day the discomfort is accompanied by an intense pain that shoots through your hand and up your arm. This is what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) feels like.
The carpal tunnel is a passageway between the hand and forearm that is made up of bones, connective tissue, several tendons and the median nerve. CTS occurs when the connective tissues swell and cause pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve is responsible for controlling the feeling and sensation in the hand, along with the general nerve function of the upper arm.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), although these symptoms may be presented with other conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common and widely known condition to be chronically compressed or traumatized.
CTS Risk Factors:
• Congenital predisposition: Women are at 3x the risk of men
• Sprain or fracture of the wrist accompanied by swelling
• Overactivity of the pituitary gland
• Hypothyroidism, Diabetes or other Metabolic Disorders
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Mechanical complications of the wrist joint
• Work stress - especially assembly line and data entry workers
• Fluid retention from pregnancy or menopause
CTS has been known to present itself without any prior risk factors identified.
CTS Treatment & Recovery:
*Always consult a physician before starting treatment
• Treating early signs of CTS before the damage progresses is important
• Use a wrist splint that does not apply direct pressure to the median nerve
• Corticosteroid injections or prednisone (as prescribed by your doctor)
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug regimen: (aspirin, ibuprofen, and nonprescription pain relievers) may ease early symptoms of pain, discomfort and swelling
• Stretching and strengthening exercise for the wrist
• In some cases surgery may be necessary
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/carpal_tunnel/detail_carpal_tunnel.htm
University of Maryland Medical Center: http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/carpal-tunnel-syndrome