You may have heard the reference to carpal tunnel syndrome but do you know what it is and how it can affect the body? Very simply, it is caused due to pressure on a nerve located in the wrist and this causes pain, numbness and tingling. Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in women and the chance of developing it increases with age.
If you think you may have developed carpal tunnel syndrome then here is a check list of symptoms that you may be experiencing:
- Pain or aching in arm, hand or fingers
- Numbness in the hands
- Pins and needles and tingling
These symptoms may creep up on you very slowly and are usually worse at night; in severe cases, using your thumb or gripping objects may become troublesome. Some people try to treat it without seeing a doctor but it can take a long time to improve.
How is it treated at home?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can come and go by itself and is often worse in pregnancy. If it is bothering you, try the following self-help remedies:
- Put on a wrist splint – this will keep your wrist straight and relieve pressure on the nerve. You can wear it at night and it often takes up to 4 weeks before symptoms start to disappear. These splints are easy to buy online or from your chemist.
- Eradicate the thing that is causing it – do you use a keyboard continually or play an instrument? Try doing less of this and see if it helps. Anything that means you are bending your wrist all of the time or gripping things tightly can irritate the condition.
- Forget painkillers – research shows that they seem to have little impact with not even paracetamol or ibuprofen really helping.
Things such as hand exercises, yoga and acupuncture can also help to ease the symptoms so you may wish to try these before consulting a doctor or GP.
When to see your doctor
If your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms begin to affect your work or lifestyle, get worse or home treatments just aren’t cutting it, then a trip to the GP may be on the cards. He will take a good look at your hands and ask you about symptoms. If it is difficult to be sure whether or not you have CTS then tests can be administered at the hospital i.e. an ultrasound scan.
If you have tried the wrist splint but it did not correct the problem, your GP may also discuss the possibility of you having an injection of steroids into the wrist. This will reduce any swelling and pain. Whilst this can provide great temporary relief, it will not cure the problem and so repeat injections may be required.
In severe cases, you may be recommended to see a specialist who can decide whether or not surgery is an option. This is a very short procedure and normally carried out as a day patient under local anaesthetic. The doctor will make a tiny incision and cut the carpal tunnel so that pressure is taken off the nerve. After a month, your hand should be fully functional once again.
Why do people get carpal tunnel syndrome?
There are many causes with the problem occurring when your wrist swells up and squeezes the median nerve. You may be more likely to suffer from CTS if you are:
• Using your wrist a lot for work (using a keyboard) or playing an instrument
• Suffering from arthritis or diabetes
• In a family where relatives have CTS
• Suffering due to a wrist injury
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be unpleasant and debilitating but there are plenty of treatments available. Even if you do experience symptoms, there is no need to worry long term.
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