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How To Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Updated on March 25, 2015

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition stretching from your hand to your arm, caused by the compression of the median nerve (in your wrist).

The carpal tunnel is the narrow part of your wrist (on the palm side). The tendons swell, pinching the main (median) nerve, resulting in the numbness, weakness and pain.

Symptoms:

  • Experiencing a dull ache beginning in the wrist and gradually extending to the hand and forearm.
  • Tingling or numbness in your thumb, fingers or hand. (Not your little finger.)
  • Difficulty with grip, frequently dropping objects.
  • Many people suffering from CTS wake up during the night because of the pain.


Treatments:

Temporary Relief:

  • Take frequent breaks from repetitive tasks which involve the use of your hands.

E.g. Being on the computer, writing, sewing, jobs such as hairdressing, cashiers, musician.

  • Rotate your wrists and stretch your hands and fingers.
  • Take a painkiller, such as Aspirin or Ibruprofen.
  • Make sure that you're not sleeping on your hands at night, and it may help to wear a wrist splint.


Non-surgical Treatments:

  • Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids decrease swelling, therefore relieving pressure from the median nerve. Your doctor can inject this into your carpal tunnel. It can come in pill form too, but is considered a lot less effective.


Surgical Treatments:

  • Open surgery

In open surgery, the surgeon makes an incision in the palm of your hand over the carpal tunnel. (S)he will then cut through the ligament, freeing the nerve.

  • Endoscopic surgery

In endoscopic surgery, the surgeon will still cut your ligament, but only via one or two small incisions. (S)he will use a device with a tiny camera attached to it (endoscope) to see inside your carpal tunnel while doing so.

Alternative Medicine

  • Yoga

Yoga has postures which are helpful for strengthening specific joints in the body.

  • Ultrasound Therapy

This raises the temperature of a specific area of body tissue and is said to promote healing and reduce pain.


Symptom: Weak grip.
Symptom: Weak grip.

Prevention:

The key for prevention is to minimize the amount of stress you put on your hands and wrists.

  • Working in colder conditions increases the chances of developing stiffness in your hands. If you can't choose your environment, wear (fingerless) gloves or wrist warmers.
  • Try to not bend your wrists all of the way, up or down. The perfect position is relaxed and in the middle. E.g. using a keyboard, stay at elbow height.
  • Incorrect posture causes your shoulders to roll forward, thus shortening the muscles. Your median nerve actually begins in your neck, affecting your hands.
  • Be gentle. People tend to use more force than is necessary. When typing, hit the keys softly. Don't grip pens so tight, etc.

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