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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

CARPAL TUNNEL: RISK FACTORS, CAUSES AND TREATMENT


Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve near your palm is compressed. The ligaments adjacent to this nerve can experience swelling, which contributes to the excess pressure.

You may have carpal tunnel syndrome if you notice tingling, numbness, and weakness that spreads from your arm and hand through your fingers.

How Carpal Tunnel Starts

Contrary to popular belief, repetitive motion is not the direct cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, although it may aggravate and accelerate the condition.

The carpal tunnel is a tube running through your wrist, where the median nerve and tendons pass. The tunnel, which connects your hand and forearm, is made up of the carpal bones and ligaments. The median nerve transmits signals to four of five fingers to help them bend. In particular, the sensation it gives your thumb and index finger helps you grasp objects.

Carpal tunnel syndrome may be a manifestation of many factors, including:

·         Preexisting Health Conditions: A wrist fracture may explain why the median nerve feels irritated. However, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and other chronic conditions can contribute to inflammation and swelling that compress the nerve. All conditions restrict the space through which the tendons and median nerve pass.

·         Biological Factors: People with a smaller carpal tunnel – mostly women – have a higher likelihood of developing the syndrome over time.

·         Medication Side Effects: Patients taking anastrozole, a breast cancer drug, are more likely to develop carpal tunnel.

·         Physical Characteristics: Obesity or a condition causing the retention of fluid, including pregnancy or a thyroid disorder, can place additional pressure on the median nerve. Losing weight or starting a treatment plan to manage symptoms can decrease the pressure placed on the median nerve.

·         Workplace Conditions: Through repetitive motions, those who perform assembly-line duties, work on a computer, or use vibrating tools have a higher chance of developing carpal tunnel, especially if they work in cold conditions or already have nerve damage.

Signs of Carpal Tunnel Development

Carpal tunnel syndrome typically does not come on suddenly, but rather emerges gradually through one or more of the following symptoms:

·         A pins-and-needles or burning sensation, electric shock, or numb feeling in your fingers and hands that eventually travels up your arm.

·         The numbness or tingling is especially pronounced when you drive, use a phone, hold an object, or bend your wrist.

·         You wake up with a numbness or tingling sensation or find your hand or arm feels asleep.

·         You notice weakness in your hand and have a habit of dropping objects.

Ignoring these symptoms can worsen carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes the muscles in your wrist and hand to atrophy. When the median nerve cannot perform properly, you experience decreased sensation, poor coordination, and diminished strength in your fingers. Eventually, you may be unable to grasp objects at all.

How to Address Carpal Tunnel

. You’re advised to:

·         Relax your grip and typing strength

·         Take breaks on the job and not spend too long on a single task

·         Think about ergonomics and posture to avoid your wrist bending up or down. Also address rolled shoulders, which can affect the muscles and nerves in your neck

·         Try to keep your hands warm by raising the room temperature or wearing gloves

·         Work with a physical therapist to develop a routine of stretching and strengthening exercises

·         Wear a splint for part of the day or while sleeping to prevent the wrist from bending

·         Consider using an anti-inflammatory medication to lessen swelling

 

If you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, work with a physiotherapist to strengthen your wrists and hands, find relief from pain and swelling, and be educated about postural reeducation and ergonomics.

 

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