Carpal tunnel syndrome or median nerve compression is a condition that causes tingling, numbness and aching in your hand and fingers. This condition can be mild or severe, and it often results from everyday activity, such as manual labour or playing a musical instrument. The disorder progresses slowly and gradually, affecting either one hand or both.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be painful and uncomfortable. But the good news is there are ways you can alleviate the pain. And if these methods don’t work, surgery can be effective.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
While it can be tricky to identify the exact causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, the condition can occur due to:
- Repetitive motions, such as typing;
- Health conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypothyroidism.
What are the risk factors for getting the condition?
Some factors can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome:
- You are a woman;
- You dislocate your wrist;
- One of your family members has small carpal tunnels;
- You have a job that involves making repetitive motions with your hand, arm or wrist, such as musician, cashier, sewer, hairstylist, etc.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may experience:
- Tingling in your palm, middle fingers and arm;
- Shock-like sensations in your fingers;
- A weakness sensation in your hand;
- Difficulty gripping.
Generally, the symptoms begin gradually without sustaining a specific injury. This is different from suffering a finger injury at work, for example. In that situation, the injury is a consequence of a workplace accident – someone was at fault for it, and you can claim compensation for a finger injury.
But for carpal tunnel syndrome, symptoms may sometimes occur due to your lifestyle and thus, easing the pain may require some changes. In the beginning, symptoms may come and go, but the condition can worsen in time, and the sensations may become more persistent.
Nighttime symptoms are common because people bend their wrists when sleeping. You may wake up from sleep due to the discomfort and pain you experience. You can also experience symptoms during the day, when driving, reading a book or using a phone. This occurs because you hold something for an extended period with your wrist bent backwards or forward.
How can you treat carpal tunnel syndrome?
There are different ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Depending on your symptoms and the extent of your condition, your treatment may include:
- Exercises. Strengthening and stretching moves can alleviate your pain and improve your condition. Nerve gliding exercises are also helpful, as they promote better nerve movement within the carpal tunnel.
- Medication. Your healthcare provider may give you steroid shots or anti-inflammatory drugs to suppress swelling.
- Immobilisation. Your doctor may recommend wearing a splint to stop wrist movement and reduce nerve pressure. You may wear it during the night to eliminate numbness and tingling sensations. This will allow your median nerve to rest, and you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep.
- Lifestyle changes. If your symptoms occur due to repetitive motion, you must take regular breaks or reduce the amount of time you spend doing that specific activity.
- Surgery. If none of those mentioned above treatments work, you can undergo a carpal tunnel release surgery that eases nerve pressure and increases your tunnel’s size.
Unless you need a serious medical intervention, several natural remedies may benefit carpal tunnel syndrome.
Several studies have shown that acupuncture can benefit individuals suffering from this condition. Acupuncture is a medical practice with Chinese origins, developed thousands of years ago. This technique involves inserting needles and thin pins through the skin, targeting areas known as acupuncture points.
While acupuncture can’t cure carpal tunnel syndrome, it can help individuals find long-term relief from symptoms. It is because acupuncture stimulates endorphins, which are pain-relieving chemicals.
Supplements or vitamins
There’s been a long debate around it, but Vitamin B6 may alleviate carpal tunnel symptoms, such as inelasticity or swelling.
Also, Vitamin B6 is a diuretic, and thus, it can help eliminate some fluids from the body that may cause swelling in the wrist and hand. However, it’s vital to be extra careful about it and not take B6 in excess, as it can cause sensitivity to skin rashes and light. You can also find Vitamin B6 in foods, such as fish, bananas and brown rice, so make sure to include them in your diet.
Research has shown that hand and wrist pain associated with this condition may be a symptom of neck problems. These problems compress the nerves that move down the arm and then to the hand, thus, causing pain. A chiropractor can perform a physical examination and identify if the symptoms occur due to a cervical spine problem. They can determine if there are any bone spurs, cervical disc degeneration, or other issues.
Once they’ve identified the root cause, they can help alleviate pain or uncomfortable sensations you experience. This holistic approach can reduce stress on the immune system and free up energy in your body that can be further used for illness prevention and maintaining homeostasis. Chiropractic care addresses the entire body, improving patients’ ability to think, perform and move.
Ice and heat therapy
When used as a complementary treatment option, ice and heat can help ease the pain and stiffness associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. As you apply it on the wrist, ice therapy decreases blood flow to the carpal tunnel, known as vasoconstriction. It helps manage swelling, allowing the median nerve to glide evenly through the carpal tunnel. Ice therapy is most efficient when used after carpal tunnel exercises and at the condition’s early stages.
As opposed to ice therapy, heat therapy increases blood flow, relaxing the blood vessels. This speeds up recovery from injury, as oxygen is delivered to healing muscles. However, you should use heat therapy cautiously, as overexposure can worsen swelling and inflammation. You can apply heat therapy through a heating pad, a massage or warm water.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is indeed disruptive and painful. If you experience symptoms that you think may be caused by this condition, make sure to visit your doctor and ask how you can relieve the pressure and pain.
If natural remedies don’t work, learn about other treatment methods, such as corticosteroid injections and surgery. The earlier you get a diagnosis and treatment for your condition, the better it will be.