Our hands are often taken for granted. We use them to perform just about every task we do throughout our day and rarely stop to give them the love they long for and deserve. According to the The National Institutes of Health, carpal tunnel syndrome – a condition affecting movement and feeling of your wrist and hands – is the most common type of nerve compression disorder. Although there is no single cause, it is thought to be the result of overuse.
Where is the Carpal Tunnel?
The carpal tunnel lies on the palmar side of your wrist and serves as a passageway for the median nerve and several tendons to reach parts of your hand. Normal functioning allows for movement and feeling. Problems arise when the nerve somehow becomes compressed – often due to inflammation or thickening of the tendons within the tunnel. Once there is excessive pressure on the median nerve, symptoms such as pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the hand and wrist are likely to result. Symptoms can range from extremely disabling and painful to barely noticeable. The severity depends on the amount of pressure on the nerve.
Who is Affected?
Anyone can be affected. However, women are three times more likely than men to be affected, probably because of smaller wrists and resulting smaller tunnel space. It is often thought that those who spend all day on computers are more likely to get carpal tunnel, but actually, assembly line workers and those who consistently work with vibrational mechanical tools like drills are much more likely to be affected. The good news is that no matter who you are there are plenty of things you can do to protect your precious hands!
Tips for Preventing Carpal Tunnel
#1 Take a Break
The single most beneficial thing you can do is to stop or decrease the action that’s causing discomfort. If excess typing is causing the problem and you are able to slow down or spread it out, allow yourself to take that break! Take advantage of that break and give yourself a little hand and wrist massage!
#2 Break Out the Yoga Mat
Studies have shown that yoga may have a positive impact on those experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. Stretching allows for increased range of motion and allows the muscles and tendons in your forearm to relax — helping to get rid of inflammation.
#3 Brace Yourself
Literally. Wear a brace to help keep your wrist in a neutral position. This is especially helpful at night but can also be worn while you’re performing the actions that cause you discomfort.
#4 See a Chiropractor
Chiropractors are a great option and may help you find some relief in addition to helping you re-establish a more neutral position for your wrist. Ultrasound, Electrical Muscle Stimulation, hands-on stretching/myofascial release, and joint function improvement are just some of the therapies that your chiropractor has in his or her pocket that may help to alleviate your discomfort.
#5 Temperature Therapy
Studies suggest that both warm and cold therapies may be able to reduce nerve compression and improve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Try submerging your wrist in an ice bath for about 10-15 minutes a couple of times each day. Distract yourself from the cold by taking some “you time” and watch a little TV or read a book! You can do the same with a warm water bath!
If you start to feel tingling, pain, or numbness in your hand(s), it may be the start of carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s important not to ignore these symptoms as permanent nerve damage could be the result. Take some time and give your hands and wrists the much-needed love they deserve – they’ll be moved by the gesture!
Dr. Melissa Wilke practices in Geneva, IL where she “gives you the tools, to love the body you live in”.