Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive motion injury that develops over time due to excessive use of the hands and wrists. With the widespread usage of computers in workplaces and smartphones in everyday life, this injury has become common in tasks performed via computer screens and keyboards. The positioning of wrists and palms to press keys on a keyboard increases pressure on the median nerve, leading to the narrowing of the carpal tunnel.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
While many cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome have no specific cause, but here is a list of possible contributing factors:
- Frequent, repetitive movements of the hands and fingers such as typing on a keyboard or texting on a smartphone
- Frequent, repetitive, grasping movements of the hands (like with sports other physical activities)
- Family history of carpal tunnel syndrome
- Preexisting conditions or injuries of the wrist (strain, sprain, dislocation, bone fractures, deformities, or swelling and inflammation)
- Hormonal or metabolic changes (menopause, pregnancy, or thyroid imbalance)
- Joint or bone disease (post-traumatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis)
What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
These are some noticeable signs to watch out for:
- Changes in how your hands and wrists feel on their own.
- Reduced sense of touch in/on your fingertips.
- A tingling sensation in your fingers and arms.
- Loss of grip strength.
- Pain in your thumb, middle fingers, and index finger.
- While your ring finger should be affected, it is crucial to note that the ring finger is not usually affected because the median nerve in the carpal tunnel only supplies sensation only halfway in the ring finger.
- Inability to use your hands to perform tasks that are usually easy such as:
- Holding a pen
- Holding a book
- Holding your phone
The signs of carpal tunnel syndrome gradually accumulate until they reach a point where the base of your thumb starts to wither. It is crucial to address this condition promptly as soon as any symptoms arise in order to prevent further complications.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically diagnosed by a healthcare professional through a comprehensive examination of the wrist and hand. Since the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can resemble those of other conditions, the healthcare professional may also assess other areas of the body, specifically the neck.
During the diagnostic process, your provider will carefully review your medical history and perform a thorough physical exam. In some cases, they may recommend electrodiagnostic tests to evaluate the functioning of your nerves. These tests involve stimulating the muscles and nerves in your hand to assess their performance and provide the most accurate diagnosis for carpal tunnel syndrome.
While nerve conduction studies can also be performed, they are not always necessary for making a diagnosis. Additionally, in certain cases, blood tests may be taken to rule out any other underlying conditions that could contribute to the problem.
Overall, a comprehensive approach is taken to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, combining detailed examinations, specialized tests, and, if necessary, additional investigations to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
What are the Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at an early stage is relatively simple. There are effective exercises for strengthening your wrists and hands, such as squeezing a stress ball firmly for about 15 seconds, practicing eagle pose yoga, and doing clenched fist exercises. These exercises can help alleviate the pain in your wrists and hands.
A chiropractor plays a crucial role in this process, especially when it comes to wrist and hand strengthening exercises, as they can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from progressing to a point where surgery becomes necessary. To keep this syndrome at bay, it is advisable to take regular breaks while working and ensure proper positioning of your wrists and hands during work and recreational activities. These preventive measures can be particularly helpful if carpal tunnel syndrome does not already run in your family.
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