So, What is Carpal Tunnel Anyways?
5 Signs of Carpal Tunnel
These days many of us have heard of carpal tunnel, especially if you or someone you knows works an office job and is constantly on their computer. Think of carpal tunnel as excessive use of your hands and not being in a correct ergonomic position. It is becoming a more common problem that we see regularly do our society always being in the frontal plane. Think about it, we drive, eat, watch TV, type on our computers, and are a heads down phone society. All of these daily tasks and activities are done with poor posture and contribute to the upswing of people experiencing issues that ultimately arise to carpal tunnel or other postural deviations. The carpal tunnel is a pathway found in the wrist that is surrounded by bones and connective tissue, nerves, and muscles. They all connect and move the hand and run through this pathway. The median nerve is responsible for the feeling and movement of your thumb, pointer, middle and ring finger, in fact the only finger not connected to this nerve is your pinky. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, is an issue that occurs when excess pressure is placed on the median nerve found in the carpal tunnel inside the wrist. It can be very painful and even affect the function and strength of your hands, leading to a decreased range of motion and inability to perform tasks that were relatively easy to do in the past. Being that at Bare Health and Fitness we tend to deal with an assortment of people with issues such as, and similar to carpal tunnel we thought we may give our two cents on the matter. The most common cause is actually brought on by repetitive motion. However, medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, breaking or fracturing your wrist, and even obesity may also leave you more vulnerable to carpal tunnel syndrome. This article will be written with the intent to shed light and maybe give you the ability to make a more educated decision as to whether or not you should visit your doctor to get a diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible for carpal tunnel!
Sign 1: Waking up with Numb Hands
Laying down for long periods of time could potentially exacerbate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome due to the over-compression of the median nerve during sleep or during naps. This could be from the odd positions your hand or wrist may assume throughout the night, by you simply laying on top of it, or the swelling that naturally occurs over night from lack of movement in the bloodstream. Either way if you frequently seem to wake up with a numb like sensation in your hands, or sometimes even wake up in the middle of the night because of the numbness you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Pay attention to the position of your hands and wrists when going to sleep and try to avoid laying on top of them or holding them in flexion. The key is to avoid pressure on the side of the wrist with the palm, especially in the area near the thumb. Many people find relief by wearing a brace on the wrist that is experiencing pain. This helps avoid your hands getting into strange positions while sleeping. The point of the brace is to keep your wrist in a neutral position once again avoiding any flexion or extension so your wrist and hands can get a break while you sleep. If you have the ability to wear the brace throughout the day, especially with activities that often trigger a flare up, it can help alleviate some or even all of the pain as well.
Sign 2: Pain in Wrist and Fingers
Some people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome report a shooting, painful burning sensation that can run all the way up from the forearm, through the wrist, up the palm, into the thumb, pointer, middle, and ring finger. The issue seems to get flared up during times when your fingers and/or wrist are in flexion, such as driving a car, typing, texting or writing with a pen or pencil. Unfortunately these are all activities the majority of people do on a daily basis, and are necessary tasks most jobs require to be performed. Hence, why this issue can really be debilitating from a work perspective and extremely frustrating to an employee. Continual work in these positions can make the pain persists for a long time as the wrist stays under constant pressure and flexion. If you have persisting symptoms of this sort you may have an issue with carpal tunnel syndrome and it would be recommended that you visit your doctor for further evaluation to confirm whether or not you have it. Certain exercises to stretch and strengthen the wrist may help alleviate and even prevent carpal tunnel issues in the future. These stretches usually start by alleviating postural deviations in the shoulders, upper back and neck. Oftentimes, people with carpal tunnel symptoms have rounded shoulders, forward hands and a forward neck. By addressing these postural issues some people experience carpal tunnel relief. These issues are generally addressed at Bare Health through gentle posture stretches, natural anti-inflammatories, retraining your posture, hydration, and proper nutrition.
Sign 3: Tingling Through Wrist and Palms
Along with numbness and pain, you may also feel a tingling sensation through the affected wrist and palm. Since carpal tunnel syndrome involves compression of the median nerve located in the wrist near the thumb, it’s common to feel this tingling, pins and needles sensation or even feel like ants are crawling on your skin. Sometimes people will feel this in their forearms or even further up as well. This same compression can limit blood flow to the wrists and hands but by gently moving them through various ranges of motion, such as small circles it can encourage blood flow to return. If you are feeling this type of sensation it is important to take breaks from a job with a lot of repetitive motion, about once an hour, can help alleviate this symptom as well. Massages, tendon release, appropriate exercises, adequate hydration, and nutrition may be enough to prevent the progression of carpal tunnel issues and return the wrists and hands back to a normal and healthy state. Although the tingling sensation may not seem like a serious sign, it shouldn’t go ignored. The earlier you catch onto carpal tunnel symptoms the better off your recovery will be. Some people get immediate relief or within a 6-month period. Some people even report a firm handshake can give some relief to the effected area. Pay attention to which movements trigger this tingling sensation and be wary of unnecessary overuse of your hands.It is important ot figure out what the root cause of the carpal tunnel is and rule out anything more serious.
Sign 4: Loss of Grip Strength
Losing your grip strength is another common sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’ve recently noticed that you’re having trouble holding things that were relatively easy for you at one point in time, like holding a glass of water, the hair trimmers or blow dryer (if you’re a stylist), holding a hammer (or any other tools), or going as “deep” as you once did (as a massage therapist), or even just picking up your child you may want to start asking your doctor some questions. The sooner you get on top of situations like this the better as you want to address it before it progresses into a completely debilitating medical condition. Professionals that go through a lot of repetitive motion due to their jobs may want to consider some lifestyle changes or adjustments to mitigate and prevent carpal tunnel issues. Such interventions include adding exercise regimens that allow for more wrist and hand mobility in ranges of motion that differ from their work routine. There are a variety of grip strength exercises one can do to help. However, if any of the exercises hurt it is important to stop immediately and not exacerbate any inflammation. One of our favorite grip strength stretches is as simple doing thumb touches which means you spread your fingers wide and one at a time you will tap each finger to your thumb making an “O” like shape. Even if you can do some self-massage with you other hand to the pressure points that are bothersome can be helpful for loosening up tight muscles in the hands.
Sign 5: Inability to Fully Close Hands
The inability to have full control and use of your hands is one of the most serious symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’ve been dealing with some of the previous symptoms for a while and have waited too long to get proactive about your rehabilitation process, you may end up in a position where you can’t even fully close your hands any more. This is actually quite the telling sign that you most certainly have carpal tunnel syndrome as this typically happens closer to the end stages of the syndrome. If this is something that you are dealing with I truly hope it goes without saying but, we urge you to please seek attention from a medical professional as soon as possible and get help. There are many things that can be done to help return your hands back to their full range of motion, but time is of the essence to avoid possible long term damage or the need for surgical intervention.
Carpal tunnel issues involve the muscles, tendons, and nerves in the wrists so overuse or injury to the area can trigger it. The warning signs for carpal tunnel syndrome range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain and can, in the long run, turn into a significant loss of strength and range of motion of the hands. People who do a lot with their hands can be more susceptible to these problems, so it’s important to keep the hands healthy and strong. For instance, you may need to take more breaks and do some exercises and/or stretches to counteract the movements of your job or hobby, effectively breaking the pattern and relieving the pressure brought on by repetitive motion. A doctor may also recommend some form of anti-inflammatory drug. If you are of the mindset against such drugs, a dietary intervention can help. Staying away from or limiting foods known to cause inflammation like meat, dairy, processed sugars, and alcohol can go a long way. It would go even further adding foods to combat inflammation such as turmeric, fruit, and leafy greens. Whatever you choose, seek help as soon as possible.
Author: Carla and Armando Castro Trainers at Bare Health