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Facts Concerning Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Updated on September 14, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

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What is Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal tunnel (median nerve compression) is caused by pressure on the median nerve. There is a narrow passageway that is surrounded by ligaments on the palm side that is surrounded by bones called the carpal tunnel. Compression of the median nerve that runs the length of the arm and through the wrist can cause tingling, numbness and weakness in the arm and hand. There are several possible reasons that may cause this condition.

Carpal tunnel syndrome was described back in the mid 1800s, and the first surgery was done in 1930. It is unusual to get this syndrome before age twenty. This syndrome is the most common problem affecting the hand. This syndrome is thought to affect three to six percent of the population.

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Anatomy of the Hand

The bones in the hand include tendons and the median nerve that connects the hand and forearm. The bones actually form a semicircle. There are ligaments on the top of the tunnel, which is a strong tissue holding the tunnel together. The median nerve provides the feeling to all of the fingers, except the little finger, and the thumb. The tendons are rope-like structures that connect the forearm muscles to the hand bones. This allows the thumb and the fingers to bend.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel

Repetitive motions, other health problems and the anatomy of the wrist may contribute to this syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome typically begins gradually and the discomfort increases. The symptoms include:

  1. Numbness or tingling - These symptoms may be noticed in the hand or the fingers. The little finger usually does not have these symptoms but the others do, including the thumb. This uncomfortable sensation may be felt from the wrist up the arm. These symptoms are often noticed when driving a car, holding a phone book or newspaper. They can even wake you from sleep.
  2. Weakness of the hand - There may be weakness of the hand causing you to drop things. There also may be numbness in the hand caused by numbness in your hand.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: How to Avoid Surgery - Treatment with Natural Homeopathic Medicines

Factors That Increase Symptoms

There are several factors that may increase the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Listed below are factors that do not actually cause the syndrome, but either damage or just irritate the median nerve.

  1. Anatomical factors such as a wrist fracture or dislocation, arthritis of the small wrist bones can alter the space within the carpal tunnel. Anything that puts pressure on the median nerve can be a factor.
  2. The syndrome is more common in women possibly because women tend to have a smaller carpal tunnel then men.
  3. People with inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, as the inflammatory component puts pressure on the lining around wrist tendons and on the median nerve.
  4. Obesity is a risk factor.
  5. Diabetes or other chronic illnesses may damage the nerves.
  6. Some medications, such as anastrozole (Arimidex), which is a breast cancer treatment.
  7. Fluid retention can put pressure on the median nerve. Pregnancy can cause fluid retention but this resolves after delivery.
  8. Particular medical conditions may cause this syndrome, such as menopause, kidney failure, thyroid disorders and lymphedema.
  9. Some workplace factors, such as working on an assembly line, hours of computer use or using a vibrating tool frequently, can create pressure on the median nerve.

These factors are not considered causes at this time but there is a great deal of research ongoing.

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Diagnosis

Your doctor will review your symptoms and do a physical examination by testing the feelings in your fingers and the strength of the muscles in your hand. The wrist may be x-rayed to rule out other causes of your discomfort. The pain may be due to a fracture or to arthritis, but carpal tunnel cannot be diagnosed this way

An electromyography is a test that measures tiny electrical discharges produced in the muscles. A thin needle is inserted in specific muscles to evaluate that electrical activity when the muscle is contracted and at rest. This test will identify damage to the muscles that are controlled by the median nerve. A nerve conduction study is another test that evaluates electrical impulses.

Treatments

You can take breaks more frequently and use ice packs to reduce any swelling. Avoiding activities that make symptoms worse may help. A physician will typically try non-surgical therapy before recommending surgery. Non-surgical treatment is more effective when this syndrome is diagnosed early.

There are several possible treatments for this disorder, including:

  • Wrist splinting - The splint holds the wrist still when you sleep as that is when the pain is the worst, but it is also good for daytime.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications - This includes (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.). These won’t cure the disorder but only give some relief.

  • Corticosteroids - Your doctor may use this for an injection and sometimes use an ultrasound to guide the injection. Oral corticosteroids are not as effective unless the cause of carpal tunnel is an antiinflammatory disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Surgery will be used if there is no response to other treatments. Pressure is relieved by cutting the ligament pressing on the median nerve. There are two types of surgeries.

  1. Endoscopic surgery uses a telescope type of device with a tiny camera to view the carpal tunnel.

  2. Open surgery may be used where the surgeon makes an incision in the palm over the carpal tunnel and the ligament is cut to free the nerve.

The healing process allows the ligament to slowly grow back together to allow more room for the median nerve.

Preventive Strategies

There are no specific proven strategies to prevent this syndrome but you may be able to reduce the discomfort by minimizing the stress on your hands or wrists. These methods include:

  1. Relax your grip and hit keys softly when you use a computer or a cash register.
  2. When doing prolonged hand writing use a larger size pen with free-flowing ink.
  3. Frequent, short breaks are helpful and stretch your hands and wrists. When using vibrating equipment try to alternate tasks when possible.
  4. A relaxed middle posture is helpful, so avoid bending your waste all the way up or down. Your keyboard should be elbow height or slightly lower.
  5. Good posture is important, so do not keep your shoulders rolled forward as that may compress the nerves in your neck.
  6. Use a comfortable mouse that is comfortable so it does not strain your wrist.
  7. Try to keep your hands warm to avoid stiffness from the cold. Fingerless gloves can also be helpful.

Top 3 Stretches & Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Research

NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health funds numerous studies that study long-lasting neuropathies. They also research biomechanical stresses contributing to nerve damage that is responsible for carpal tunnel syndrome to prevent this disorder.

In Conclusion

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common hand disorder that is painful but there is no cure. There are several possible treatments, but surgery is the only way to stop the discomfort. There is a great deal of ongoing research, so there is hope for the future of this disorder.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

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  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Rajan,

    I'm glad you found this informative. Thanks for commenting.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 

    5 days ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

    Very useful information. Useful preventive tips. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Heidi,

    I know people that have had the surgery and it worked for them. It is very difficult to have this type of pain as everything your try to do hurts. I think the surgery itself has improved as well.

    Thanks so much for sharing your personal experiences.

  • heidithorne profile image

    Heidi Thorne 

    7 days ago from Chicago Area

    After trying so many options, my husband finally did carpal tunnel surgery last winter. I think it was all the years of motorcycling and physical work. It's made a huge difference for him. He just needs to get the other hand done. Luckily, that one isn't as severe.

    My mom also had it, but didn't do surgery and was in pain. But that was decades ago. Thank goodness we have so many ways to treat it now.

    Thanks for sharing your insight on the issue!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish,

    I think this problem is prominent in our society. I had a neighbor several years ago who was a semstress and ended up with surgery in both wrists and she was cured.

    Red velvet cake is delicious! Thanks so much for your comments.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    7 days ago from USA

    I knew a lady who a professional cake baker and decorator and she had carpal tunnel in both wrists with surgery on both wrists. She did make a mean red velvet cake though. Employees in meatpacking plants also get suffer high rates of carpal tunnel.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Chitrangada,

    I think this is a painful condition and I hope futher treatments become available with research. I appreciate your very nice comments.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    8 days ago from New Delhi, India

    A well written and researched article, about this Carpal tunnel syndrome. I can imagine, how painful it must be for the people, who are suffering from it.

    You have provided all the relevant information, if someone with this medical condition needs it. Hopefully, further research will help people with more advanced treatment.

    Thanks for sharing another useful article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ms Dora,

    It is so difficult when a job causes this disorder as it is painful. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz,

    I know people who have had the surgery also. I appreciate your very nice comments. I never thought of my articles as a medical fact file.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    8 days ago from The Caribbean

    Your article confirms all that I've heard from coworkers who suffered from this painful situation. Thanks for the preventative strategies.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    8 days ago from UK

    This is a very interesting and informative article. I have known friends who have had to have corrective surgery for this. Your articles would make a good collection as a medical fact file.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Devika,

    I am glad you learned some ways to prevent this disorder. Thank you for your comments.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    8 days ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Pamela Oglesby An informative and useful hub on Carpel Syndrome. I learned a lot here, the symptoms and what causes the Syndrome is now clear to me. The exercises are a great start to recovery.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Jeff.

    I am glad you found this article informative. Thank you for your comments

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Sp,

    I don not know why your symtoms would have stopped with a fracture, but that is sure good news. I agree it is an annoying syndrome. I appreciate your comments.

  • Nicoartz profile image

    Jason Nicolosi 

    9 days ago from AZ

    I do a lot of work on computers. So i've always been considered with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I found your article excellent and informitvie. Nice job.

  • sangre profile image

    Sp Greaney 

    9 days ago from Ireland

    I had this for two years and used the splint like you mentioned here. But then when I broke my arm it stopped acting up. No idea why but it was super weird that it stopped bothering me.

    Typing on the keyboard and texting on the phone is what caused mine. You really need to be careful and if possible try to avoid getting it like you mention above. It's one of those conditions that just become annoying.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda,

    At least you have the information about this syndrome. I am glad you found the information useful and I wish the best for you as I really enjoy reading your unique articles. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill,

    That is a lot of hours to spend on the computer over the years. Maybe some of the strategies will help. I am glad you have the information anyway. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    9 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

    I think this would be a very unpleasant condition to experience. I hope I never suffer from the disorder. Thanks for sharing useful information about the problem, Pamela.

  • bdegiulio profile image

    Bill De Giulio 

    9 days ago from Massachusetts

    I definitely feel this every now and then, especially after spending 8 to 9 hours on the computer keyboard for work. Stretching and taking breaks definitely helps. I will incorporate your preventative strategies to keep it at bay. Hopefully when I retire from my day job this won’t be a problem. Great information, Pam

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy,

    I like to find ways to treat or prevent a medical problem without surgery. I appreciate your comments. Have a good week.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda,

    The hand is delicate and this syndrome is common. I also have arthritis in my fingers, which is worse on the left for some reason.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Have a good week.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    9 days ago from Houston, Texas

    The video you found to insert near the end shows exercises that might alleviate the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. Thanks for writing about this syndrome and sharing what can be done if one suffers from it.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    9 days ago from Washington State, USA

    Pamela, the hand/wrist is such a complex and delicate part of the body. So many little parts. I don't know how I've avoided carpel tunnel, but am glad that at least I don't have THAT problem. Arthritis in my thumb and wrist is bad enough. You've done a very thorough job of explaining the problem, diagnoses, and remedies.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Rosina,

    If the preventative strategies do no work people end up getting surgery. I hope more research does come up with an easier cure.

    Your comments are always so nice and I really appreciate them.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill,

    Stretch you neck several times a day is what a physical therapist told me.

    You may need the Dragon program where you speak into headphones attached to the computer, therefore you don't use your fingers. Although, I think you may be a bit old school and would not care for the program. :-)

    Thank you for your comments, Bill, and Happy Monday to you.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eric,

    I was aware of the workers compensation problem and it never should have been a problem. We sure have come a long way. Thanks for commenting.

  • surovi99 profile image

    Rosina S Khan 

    9 days ago

    Nice to know about Carpal tunnel syndrome which is a common hand disorder. Since there is no cure although it is painful, I am sure the preventive strategies will be really helpful. Yes, there is always hope for the future with ongoing research. Pamela, your article was not only informative but also knowledgeable and enjoyable to read.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    9 days ago from Olympia, WA

    I can see this happening in a couple years. I spend three and four hours per day on the keyboard. I sometimes wonder why I have experienced this syndrome yet. I started having problems with a stiff neck and I'm sure it's because of the computer. Anyway, great information, Pamela. Thank you and Happy Monday to you!

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    9 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Fascinating. Can you believe there was a time we had to fight to get this approved for workers compensation insurance. As late as the mid-eighties it was not a given that this was due to work. We have come a long way baby

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna,

    I was actually surprised to find so much information about this syndrome. Thank you for your generous comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi John,

    I am glad you found this to be an interesting article and your comments are appreciated.

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    9 days ago

    Even thought there isn't a cure as yet, it's good to know that there are various self-help remedies which can alleviate the pain. This article gives a very detailed account of the condition and its causes which will be of great benefit to those who suffer. Thank you for sharing Pamela.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    9 days ago from Queensland Australia

    A very interesting and helpful article, Pamela. Thank you for sharing the information on carpal tunnel.

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