Compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel of the forearm causes carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel is a space in the wrist surrounded by bones and ligaments that hold the bones together. Running up this tunnel is the median nerve and the tendons responsible for flexing the fingers. Often caused by lifestyle habits, carpal tunnel syndrome can manifest itself in different ways. However, the treatment measures for this debilitating condition are the same, no matter what the cause.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Numbness of the thumb and three fingers that worsens at night
- Pain in the wrist or hand
- Weakness or loss of strength in the hand
Who Is at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The median nerve may be compressed by a subluxation of the bones, scar tissue, enlargement of the tendons, or fluid retention. Most often, these anomalies are caused by repetitive movements and strain from them. Occupations that require repetitive hand movements or awkward hand positions, excessive or prolonged gripping, or frequent vibrations put one at greater risk. Hairdressers or barbers, typists or computer operators, cashiers, meat processors that de-bone or cut meat assembly-line fashion, farmers that milk by hand or bakers kneading bread are all at risk for CTS.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Prevention is the key to CTS whether you are at risk from your occupation or a hobby like knitting. Here are some things to consider:
- Take a break a few minutes every hour from the task that puts you at risk
- Do strengthening exercises three times a day
- Perform a few stretching exercises prior to engaging in repetitive activities
- Check your posture making sure to sit up straight, keep wrists straight, and elbows bent
Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you already suffer from the signs of CTS, there are a few ways to manage the pain and numbness and prevent it from worsening.
- Wear wrist splints, especially when sleeping. Most people sleep with their wrists in a flexed position and wearing the splints will keep them straight. Wearing the splints when performing repetitive activity will also help.
- Take the following supplements on a daily basis: B-complex, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
- Include anti-inflammatory herbs in your diet. Bromelain with quercitin works wonders on inflammation; as well as butcher’s broom, and capsicum.
- Use a topical agent like CT Cream or Penetrex to reduce inflammation.
There is one last thing to consider before succumbing to drastic, surgical procedures. Carpal tunnel syndrome has become a catch-all diagnosis for a collection of maladies involving the hand and wrist. Unless exact testing of the nerves is done, one would benefit from evaluation of various trigger points in the shoulder and forearm muscles. Consultation with a member of the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Body Workers, who specializes in CTS, is highly recommended.
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“OSH Answers: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.” CCOHS: Canada’s National Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Information. Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, 15 Oct. 2008. Web. 31 Dec. 2011.
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