Easy Relief for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Do you or a loved one suffer from carpal tunnel?
The symptoms result from compression of the median nerve at the wrist (see diagram). In the wrist, the median nerve and the flexor tendons of the fingers pass through a "tunnel" called the carpal tunnel. This channel is relatively small. Any condition that reduces this space, for example, inflammation, causes compression of the median nerve.
Some movements of the fingers, especially the thumb, are then less well controlled, if at all. The sensations in the hand can also be modified.
Carpal tunnel syndrome affects approximately 11% of women and 3.5% of men. It tends to appear either at the beginning of the fifties or to pass the age of 75 years. The symptoms are initially light and transient, then intensify with time.
The origin of the carpal tunnel syndrome is often multifactorial. The risk is higher for workers exposed to the following situations:
- Repetition of wrist and forearm movements for extended periods.
- Movements that require significant force in the hand.
- The restrictive postures for the hand.
- Handling tools that vibrate
Basic preventive measures
- Regularly rest your hands and wrists while performing repetitive tasks. Take the opportunity to gently stretch the wrist.
- Change position frequently and, if possible, alternate movements from one hand to another.
- Avoid forcing with hands when they are too close to or too far from the body. Also avoid using excessive force (for example, pressing the keys of a cash register or a computer keyboard lightly).
- Do not press wrists on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
- Hold objects by hand rather than fingertips.
- Make sure the tool handles are not too big or too small for the hand.
- Avoid long use of tools that vibrate strongly.
- Wear gloves for manual work in a cold location. Pain and stiffness are more likely to appear cold.
- Avoid having your wrists "broken" (folded up) when you handle a computer mouse. There are various models of wrist rests and ergonomic cushions on the market. Also, adjust the height of the chair.
- If using a mouse with two main buttons, set the mouse so that the most used button is the one on the right and use the index to click. The hand is thus in a more natural position.
- Obtain the services of an ergonomist if necessary.
- Immediately treat diseases that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome
Apply ice where the pain is felt, for 10 to 12 minutes, a few times during the day. The application of heat can also help to calm the pain in the immediate future. It is also advisable to perform a contrast hydrotherapy once a day: immerse the hand and wrist for 3 minutes in a bowl of hot water, then for 30 seconds in cold water. Repeat the exercise 3 times in a row.
If necessary, analgesic drugs (acetaminophen) or anti-inflammatories (aspirin, Advil®, Motrin®, etc.) can sometimes relieve pain but are generally not very effective for this type of condition. Note that anti-inflammatories do not accelerate healing.
In more serious cases, the doctor may suggest a cortisone injection at the entrance of the carpal tunnel. This treatment provides relief for 3 months, on average.
A few tips
- Use your non-painful hand more often.
- Change your working position.
- Find a new way to use the hand reached, with a different tool.
- Reduce tobacco consumption. Smoking increases symptoms and slows recovery.
- See the other measures described in the Prevention section.
If the above means are not enough to remove the symptoms, a physiotherapy program could be beneficial, although its effectiveness has not been clearly demonstrated. The purpose of the treatment is to decrease the inflammatory reaction in the tissues surrounding the median nerve and to strengthen the muscles of the wrist and hand joints.
If the pain persists after several months of treatment and the work is at risk of recurrence, surgery may be considered followed by physiotherapy. Surgery involves cutting the ligament that is squeezing the median nerve.
Surgery can be performed by incision of about 5 cm (2 in) on the wrist or endoscopy, with 2 small incisions (one is used to introduce a tube with a tiny camera and the other, the surgical instrument).
Long-lasting relief of pain, numbness, and tingling occurs in the vast majority of people treated in this way. There are some risks, however, such as damage to the nerve either temporarily (1 in 100) or permanently (1 in 1,000).
This article was originally posted on Gratuit.ca