Carpal tunnel syndrome – symptoms, causes and treatment
Mild numbness and faint tingling to excruciating pain, but generally only burning, tingling, or numbness in the thumb and first three fingers. Crippling atrophy of the thumb can result.
Symptoms are often worse at night or in the morning. The pain may eventually spread to the arm and shoulder. Symptoms normally affect only one hand, but may be present in both.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a cumulative trauma disorder that develops over time, due to repeated stressful movements of the hands and wrist. It affects 23,000 workers a year. The median nerve in the wrist is compressed or damaged. This nerve controls the thumb muscles and sensation in the thumb, palm, and first three fingers. The median nerve passes through a very small opening, about a quarter inch below the top of the wrist.
Either compression or injury to this nerve can cause problems: Pressure from the bone spurs inflammatory arthritis or tendonitis, swelling due to pregnancy or water retention.
Other causes include repeated stressful motions, such as writing, typing, or hammering. Bookkeepers and checkout clerks can develop it; so can hairstylists, musicians, writers, drivers, athletes, restaurant servers, and jack hammer and chain-saw operators. The occurrence of CTS has greatly increased since the 1980s, when personal computers came into use. The tendons swell and compress the median nerve that runs to your hand, causing great pain. A common pattern is rapid and continuous use of the fingers, producing a repetitive wrist motion injury. Women between 29 and 62 experience CTS more often than anyone else.
Raynaud’s disease, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and menopause increase the risk of developing CTS.
Other disorders, especially arthritis in the neck, have similar symptoms. But, if the first three fingers in one or both hands are affected by the pain, then it is probably CTS.
• As soon as the tingling begins, begin doing some gentle hand exercises. Rotate the wrist in a circle for 2 minutes. This exercises all the muscles of the wrist, restores circulation, and gets your wrist out of the position that usually causes the trouble.
• Raise your hands above your head and rotate your arms while rotating your wrists at the same time. Also do some neck turns; look over your right, then left, shoulder. Learn to exercise and relax as you work.
• Vitamin B6 helps eliminate the problem.
• Eat half a fresh pineapple daily, for 1-3 weeks. The bromelain in it will reduce swelling and pain.
• Eat only moderate amounts of oxalic acid foods (beets, beet greens, sorrel, Swiss chard, cabbage family, eggs, parsley, asparagus.). Avoid spinach, and especially rhubarb. Fish have oxalic acid also.
• Avoid salt and all sodium foods, for they promote water retention.
• Try to reduce the impact of repetitive mechanical tasks on your wrists and hands. If possible, stop all such movements for several days and see if improvement occurs. If so, try to do these functions less frequently. If possible, rotate your duties, so you do not do those repetitive tasks every day.
• Keep your weight down. Extra weight puts more pressure on the carpal tunnel.
• Keep your arms close to your body and your wrists straight while sleeping. For example, if you let your hand drop over the side of the bed while you are sleeping, the pressure on the median nerve is increased.
• You might wish to temporarily wear a wrist splint at night. This helps keep the wrist straight.
• Do not wrap your wrist in an Ace bandage. This could cut off the circulation.
• If you have to carry something, make the sure the handle is the right size. If it is too small or large, it could hurt your wrist.
• Aloe vera, yarrow, and yucca help restore flexibility and reduce inflammation. Skullcap relieves muscle spasms and pain. Wintergreen oil reduces pain and aids circulation to the muscles.