If you work regularly with your hands, you may wonder if joint pain is the first sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. What does carpal tunnel syndrome feel like? What causes it, and how is it treated? The answers to these and more questions follow below.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Explained
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by pressure on the median wrist nerve. The carpal tunnel itself is a narrow passageway in the palm side of the hand, surrounded by bones and ligaments. If this nerve in the carpal tunnel is compressed, it produces pain and other symptoms associated with carpal tunnel.
The compression that causes carpal tunnel syndrome is exacerbated by other health problems or repetitive hand motions. If treated properly, you can relieve symptoms and properly restore wrist and hand function.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms primarily feel like tingling, numbness, and weakness in the affected hand. These symptoms usually start gradually and increase in severity over time.
The first signs of carpal tunnel are feelings of tingling or numbness in the fingers or hand. These symptoms often begin in the thumb or index finger, sometimes in the middle or ring fingers as well. Rarely, if ever, will it affect the little finger.
Symptoms can range from a tingling or a sharp sensation that’s comparable to electric shocks. They often occur with the hand is held steady, like when holding a steering wheel, phone, or newspaper. Additionally, symptoms can also wake you from sleep.
Numbness may grow constant over time. People often try to “shake out” their hands to try and relieve the symptoms, although this gradually becomes less effective.
Besides tingling, the next common sign is weakness in the hand. Weakness may cause patients to frequently drop items. This is because the thumb’s pinching muscles are impacted by the same median nerve affected by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment
There is no way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are several carpal tunnel syndrome treatment options available. Most of these treatments focus on minimizing the stress put on the hands and wrists.
The first and most basic of treatments is to reduce the force of your grip. Relaxing your grip will reduce the impact and strain on the median nerve, therefore reducing symptoms. For example, if your job involves a keyboard or cash register, hitting the keys softly will make a big difference.
Take frequent short breaks to stretch your hands and wrists periodically. Alternate tasks to prevent repetitive stresses from accumulating. Even a few minutes every hour can make a difference.
Keep an eye on how much you bend your wrists, and avoid bending them up or down. The best position for carpal tunnel syndrome reduction is a relaxed middle position. Keep your keyboard either at elbow height or slightly lower to similarly prevent this bending.
Posture can impact your carpal tunnel. Poor posture with rolled forward shoulders compresses the nerves in the neck. This can cause problems or complications for connected nerve systems in the wrists, fingers, and hands. Improving your posture not only will reduce neck pain, but could reduce pain in those areas as well.
Certain computer mouses can cause wrist strain, especially with repeated use. Make sure you have a mouse that is comfortable and ergonomically designed to reduce wrist strain.
Lastly, keep your hands warm. Hand pain and stiffness are more likely to develop in a cold environment. If you can’t control the temperature at work, fingerless gloves will keep the hands and wrists warm.
Put Your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Capable Hands with BASS Medical
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be painful, but it isn’t something you need to face alone. BASS Medical is here with board-certified medical specialists to help with your medical needs. This includes looking into all possible options for carpal tunnel syndrome treatment, including orthopedic surgery. Call or schedule an appointment today for more information.