Carpal tunnel syndrome is an overuse injury most of the time. Your carpal tunnel is an actual, tiny tunnel that runs through your wrist. Its purpose is to protect the nerves that give your fingers their amazing sensitivity.
Jocelyn Idema, DO, and the team at Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center know how important your hands are. Living with numbness and pain makes it difficult to work, participate in hobbies, and even do simple things like make a grocery list. There are several things you can do at home -- or at work -- that may ease the symptoms you have due to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, explained
If you really consider your hands, you realize they’re absolutely amazing. Each of your fingers can move independently of the others, and then, there’s your thumb that allows you to do so much. Part of the reason your fingers and thumb can move in the ways they do is because of the tendons that run through the carpal tunnel in your wrist, along with your median nerve.
Your median nerve sends impulses that cause your thumb to move and provides sensation in your first three fingers. Along with your median nerve, there are nine tendons that pass through your carpal tunnel. Those tendons control the movement in your first three fingers.
Anything that causes your carpal tunnel to narrow can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, which happens when your median nerve is compressed or pinched. Most often, performing the same motions repetitively cause inflammation which puts pressure on your median nerve.
How carpal tunnel syndrome feels
Usually, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome begin as mild tingling or numbness in your fingers or forearms, then progress to a more intense feeling. You may feel the sensation in just one hand or arm or in both. Often the symptoms are most noticeable in your thumbs and index fingers. Your wrists might also feel weak and uncomfortable.
The symptoms may make it difficult to carry out your work or to do activities you enjoy. There are a few things you can do that may help ease the pain.
Managing carpal tunnel syndrome
Two seemingly opposite actions may help. Keeping your wrist warm with fingerless gloves or a wrap, or soaking your wrist in warm water periodically may ease the pain. Conversely, icing or submerging your wrist in an ice bath a few times a day may also help by reducing inflammation.
Wearing a splint or brace may also help ease the pain. When you bend your wrist too far in either direction, it causes more compression in your carpal tunnel, increasing pain, numbness, and discomfort. Wearing a splint can keep your wrist in the best position to prevent the narrowing of your carpal tunnel. Many people bend their wrists in their sleep, so sleeping in a brace could be beneficial.
Dr. Idema can demonstrate gentle stretches that may help ease your symptoms. In some cases, he recommends physical therapy to help you learn how to move more comfortably.
Depending on your situation, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help ease your pain. Some people find relief with topical treatments, like creams, as well. Our staff is happy to make recommendations suitable for you.
If these treatments don’t help ease your symptoms, Dr. Idema may suggest cortisone injections or surgery. Your injury, like the rest of you, is unique. Before making treatment suggestions, Dr. Idema provides a careful evaluation, then tailors recommendations to fit your specific situation.
Tingling, numbness, and pain that prevents you from using your hands aren’t something that you just have to live with. Plus, the sooner you know you have carpal tunnel syndrome, the earlier you can begin making changes that could reduce inflammation and along with it, your symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Idema today for expert treatment and more techniques to manage your carpal tunnel syndrome.