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Understanding carpal tunnel syndrome
Have you felt tingling or numbness in your hands or arms? Has this feeling persisted for several months or gotten worse with time? If so, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
CTS can happen when a nerve in your wrist is pinched. In many instances, this is the result of a typical everyday activity. This includes the frequent use of vibrating hand tools, playing a musical instrument, or manual labor. There’s some debate over whether typing or computer work can cause CTS.
This disorder typically starts out slowly and gradually. It may affect just one or both of your hands. You may feel numbness or tingling in your fingers, particularly in your index fingers and thumbs. You may also feel an uncomfortable sensation or weakness in your wrists.
If you experience mild CTS, you may be able to ease your symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. Here are nine home remedies for carpal tunnel relief:
Whether you’re typing, playing guitar, or using a hand drill, try setting a timer beforehand for 15 minutes. When it goes off, stop what you’re doing and wiggle your fingers. Stretch your hands and move your wrists to improve blood flow to these areas.
Keeping your wrists straight can help relieve the pressure on your median nerve. Symptoms are more common at night, so wearing a splint in the evening may help relieve your symptoms before they start. If you have issues with repetitive tasks at work, you can also wear wrist splints during the day.
If you find yourself straining or forcing tasks such as writing, typing, or using a cash register, relax your grip or reduce the force you’re using. Try using a soft-grip pen or tapping keys more lightly.
Avoid activities that make your wrists flex to the extreme in either direction. Try keeping your wrists neutral as much as possible.
Keeping your hands warm can help with pain and stiffness. Consider wearing fingerless gloves or keeping hand warmers nearby.
You can do quick wrist exercises while you’re standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at your desk at work. For example, make a fist and then slide your fingers until they are straight again. Repeat this action five to 10 times. This can help relive any pressure on your wrist.
This home remedy is particularly effective if your CTS is caused by pregnancy, fractures, or other issues with fluid retention.
OTC pain relievers such as aspirin (Bufferin) and ibuprofen (Advil) may be beneficial. Not only can these relieve any pain you may have, but they can also reduce inflammation around the nerve.
In a study on slaughterhouse workers with CTS, researchers discovered that applying topical menthol greatly reduced pain during the workday. The workers in this study used Biofreeze. Be sure to follow the package directions or ask your doctor how much to use.
If these tips and tricks aren’t having an effect on your symptoms, consider visiting a physical or occupational therapist. They can teach you more advanced exercises to relax your hands and relieve your symptoms.
More serious cases of carpal tunnel syndrome may require your doctor’s help.
Your doctor may recommend corticosteroids to lessen your pain and inflammation. These drugs reduce the amount of swelling and pressure placed on the median nerve. Injections are more effective than oral steroids. This therapy may be particularly effective if your CTS is caused by inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Your doctor may also recommend surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve. This typically involves making one or two incisions in the area affected and cutting the ligament involved. This will release the nerve and increase the space around the nerve.
The ligament will eventually grow back, allowing more space for your nerve than there was before. If your CTS is severe, surgery may not clear up your symptoms completely, but it should help you feel better and help prevent any further damage to the nerve.
CTS can be painful and disruptive to your daily life. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms for some time, see your doctor to ask about ways you can relieve the pain and pressure.
If at-home remedies don’t work, find out more about the other treatment methods available to you. This can include corticosteroid injections or surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent permanent nerve damage.