Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a wrist or hand disorder, which often causes a tingling feeling and severe pain. This condition usually happens when your carpal tunnel (a narrow tunnel on your wrists, protecting your median nerve) gets swollen or inflamed because of excessive pressure. This stress can disrupt your carpal tunnel's system, damaging the median nerve — hurting your hand or leaving a 'tingling' feeling.
Although CTS isn't usually severe and won't leave lasting damage on your hands or wrists, the pain it inflicts can be excruciating, and it can last for a couple of hours to several months, affecting your day-to-day ventures.
To help you understand more about the condition, here's everything you need to know about it — from its risk factors, symptoms, prevention, and treatment.
Before anything else, it pays to know the different risk factors associated with CTS to detect it or avoid it early on. Although these don't directly cause this medical condition, they increase the risk of irritation and damage to your median nerve, resulting in CTS.
- Anatomic Factors - Anything involving your wrist, from fractures, dislocation to arthritis, can deform your carpal tunnels in your wrist, placing pressure on the median nerve.
- Workplace Factors - Handling construction equipment or tools that require prolonged and repetitive flexing of your wrist can place excessive force on the median nerve or worsen pre-existing nerve damage.
- Sex - CTS is more common in women since the size of one's carpal tunnel also affects their chances of developing CTS. Generally, those with smaller carpal tunnels are more prone to the condition, typical in women.
- Inflammatory Medical Conditions - Rheumatoid arthritis and other illnesses with an inflammatory component can damage your tendons' linings in your wrists, placing excess pressure on the median nerve.
- Sudden Changes in Body Fluids - Fluid retention increases the pressure inside your carpal tunnel, putting excessive strain on your median nerve, causing irritation, which typically leads to CTS. This factor is common in pregnant women.
If you're not sure that you have CTS, here are its symptoms. Expect to feel these being slowly and gradually worse when left untreated.
- Tingling or Numbness - 'Pins and Needles' or tingling and numbness in your hands or fingers is the common telltale sign of CTS. The sensation is the same as an electric shock and typically travels starting from your wrist up to your whole arm. This symptom often occurs when holding a steering wheel for too long or prolonged phone use.
- Weakness - You may experience an abrupt weakness in your hand and drop objects. The most plausible reason behind this is the numbness in your hand or weakness of your thumb's pinching muscles.
Like with every other medical condition, prevention is always key, and avoiding CTS is possible. Here's what you can do to decrease your chances of developing this common wrist condition.
- Start and Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle - It's best to keep your weight down as obesity can reduce the speed of nerve messages towards your hand, contributing to the lack of physical activity, increasing your risk of developing CTS.
- Avoid Sleeping in Awkward Positions - It's best to sleep in a neutral sleeping position to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on your wrists or causing it to bend or curl.
- Loosen your Grip and Force When Using Your Hands - Whether you're typing for your school essay or are writing in your journal during your free time, it's best to be gentle. That's because chances are you hold your pen or pencil too tight and type hard, which are common causes of CTS.
- Improve Posture At Work - Besides paying attention to how you use your hands, it's best to keep track of how your posture is throughout the day as it's a significant contributor to CTS.
Can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Go Away on its Own?
CTS is when your wrist experiences pressure on its median nerve, causing severe pain, a tingling feeling, or numbness in your hands and fingers. Although you can treat the condition yourself at home, it typically takes months to recover completely. The medical condition also goes away on its own even if left untreated. Still, it can cause debilitating pain for six months or longer when you leave it on its own to heal — affecting your day-to-day living, overall health, and wellness. That's why it's still best to treat it as soon as you suspect you have CTS.
How Can I treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at Home?
If you're experiencing pain or a tingling feeling on your wrists or have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, you can ease your symptoms with several home remedies. The following are proven home treatments for carpal tunnel relief.
Exercising can significantly reduce pain, numbness, and other symptoms linked with CTS by mitigating pressure on your wrists' median nerve. These can help the median nerve glide through your carpal tunnel, improving range of motion and restoring optimal hand function.
Here are the most effective exercises.
- Wrist Extension Stretch – Straighten your arm with your wrist bent back, mimicking a 'stop' hand signal, then pulling your back with the other hand. Hold the position for 15 seconds and repeat for the other arm.
- Wrist Flexion Stretch – Straighten your arm with your palm facing downwards, and wrist bent back, bringing your fingers pointing towards the floor. Then pull your hand towards your body and hold this position for 15 seconds. Do it on the other side as well.
If you find yourself doing repetitive tasks like typing, using a hand drill, or handwriting, set a timer beforehand for at least 15 minutes. When the said time passes, stop what you're doing and wiggle your hands and fingers to improve blood flow and prevent CTS.
If you find yourself straining yourself from tasks like writing, typing, or using a cash register at work, it's best to take it slow and reduce the force you're using. From tapping keyboard keys lightly to using soft-grip pens, these can go a long way in treating CTS. Plus, it's best to practice 'mind flexion' or avoiding activities that force your wrists to flex too much. It's best to try your wrists as neutral as possible and elevate them whenever you can.
Wear Splints on your Wrists
Wearing splints and keeping your wrists straight can relieve pressure on your median nerve, mitigating pain. Since CTS symptoms are more common during nighttime, it's best to use a splint before going to bed to relieve the symptoms before they get a chance to start. You can also use the wrist splints during the day at work if you often do repetitive tasks.
Stretch it Out
Stretching your wrists during random times of the day, whether you're standing in a queue at the supermarket or sitting at your desk at work, can mitigate pain. A simple stretching exercise is making a fist and sliding your fingers until they're straight again. Repeat this action 5 to 10 times for the best results.
Try Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications
Although over-the-counter medications aren't always ideal because of its temporary effects and adverse side effects, you can use OTCs like aspirin and ibuprofen to mitigate pain caused by CTS. Plus, it can also ease the inflammation around the median nerve. Pain relievers like topical menthol (Biofreeze) can also significantly reduce discomfort.
If these home treatment remedies aren't treating your symptoms, it's time for you to visit a medical professional, such as your assigned physician, physical therapist, or chiropractor. They can help you pinpoint the best treatment options for your CTS, relaxing your hands, and relieving your symptoms.
What is the Best Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The best treatment for CTS, when detected early, is wrist splinting, which is where you wear a 'splint' while sleeping or taking Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, these typically only relieve the symptoms. If you want long-term results, it's best to see a chiropractor. Chiropractic treatment can help mitigate this condition by addressing its underlying causes — alleviating pain and treating it entirely.
A chiropractor can determine if you have any issues on your upper spine, which can cause CTS. Once they confirm it is the root of the condition, they will focus on relieving pressure on the nerve, but if it's the result of physical stress on your carpal tunnel, they will include gentle manipulation on your wrists and elbow. These measures can speed up recovery and improve the healing process.
If you're looking for a professional to relieve your CTS through natural means, Debole Chiropractic is the professional you need. Dr. Mike DeBole is a well-decorated chiropractor and wellness advocate, boasting years of experience. He strives to give complete care for all patients by providing all-natural chiropractic services.
Treat your carpal tunnel syndrome today to regain your old life back with the help of Dr. Mike DeBole, offering you the best services, improving your overall health and well-being.