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The Science Behind Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

15 February 2024

If you're like most people, you probably don't think about it until it starts to hurt. We all live by the motto, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. However, when we begin to experience pain in our wrists, fingers, or hands, we may wonder if we have carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Carpal Tunnel at a Glance

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of your wrist made up of bone and ligaments. It is located just below the base of your palm, where the transverse carpal ligament forms a roof over the tunnel. You can feel it by placing your palm face up and pressing on the fleshy part below your thumb. The carpal tunnel houses tendons and the median nerve, which extends from your forearm to your hand.

The median nerve is responsible for sensation in your thumb, index, middle, and part of your ring fingers. It also controls muscles at the base of your thumb.

The Science Behind Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is caused by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel. The condition can develop gradually or suddenly and is more common in women than in men. CTS is also seen more frequently in people who perform repetitive motions with their hands and wrists, such as typing.

When you perform a repetitive motion, such as typing or using a mouse, the muscles and tendons in your hand and wrist tense up and swell. This tension can cause the tendons in your forearm to swell as well. The median nerve is surrounded by these tendons, so as the swelling increases, it begins to compress the nerve. The result is numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand and fingers.



How Do I Know If I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The most common symptom of CTS is numbness or tingling in the fingers, especially the thumb and index finger. You may feel this sensation at night or when you wake up in the morning. The numbness may come and go at first, but it gradually becomes more constant. Other symptoms include:

Weakness In the Hand and Fingers

One of the first signs of CTS is weakness in the affected hand. You may notice that you can't hold onto things as well as you used to or that your grip is not as firm. The muscles in your hand may feel weaker, and you may have difficulty making a fist.

A Feeling of Clumsiness or Decreased Coordination

You may also notice that you are dropping things more often than usual. This is because the muscles in your hand are not working together as they should. This can make it difficult to perform tasks that require coordination, such as buttoning a shirt or tying shoelaces.

Pain In the Wrist, Hand, Or Fingers That May Radiate Up the Arm

The pain associated with CTS is usually a dull ache that worsens at night. You may also feel pain or tenderness in the palm of your hand, wrist, or forearm. The pain may radiate up the arm to the shoulder.

Difficulty Gripping Objects

As the condition progresses, you may have difficulty holding onto things. This is because the muscles in your hand are not working together as they should.

Difficulty Making a Fist

You may also notice that you have difficulty making a fist. This is because the muscles in your hand are not working together as they should.

Increased Sensitivity to Touch

As the condition progresses, you may become more sensitive to touch. You may also notice that you are more sensitive to temperature changes.

CTS Diagnosis

The diagnosis of CTS is usually made based on the symptoms. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical examination. They may also order tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to rule out other conditions.



Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

CTS is treated with a combination of rest, splinting, and anti-inflammatory medication. If these measures do not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be necessary.

Rest

The first step in treating CTS is to rest the affected hand and wrist. This means avoiding activities that may aggravate the condition, such as typing or using a mouse. You should also avoid any activities requiring repetitive hand and wrist motions.

Applying a Cold Compress

Applying a cold compress to the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and pain. Place a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel on the affected area for 15 minutes at a time. Repeat this every two hours or as needed.

OTC Pain Medication

Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to relieve the pain associated with CTS. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label carefully.

Splinting

Your doctor may also recommend wearing a splint to immobilize the hand and wrist. The splint will help to reduce the swelling and relieve the pressure on the median nerve.

Surgery

Surgery may be necessary if the above measures do not relieve the symptoms of CTS. The goal of surgery is to relieve the pressure on the median nerve. The most common type of surgery for CTS is called carpal tunnel release.

Carpal tunnel release surgery involves cutting the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel. This releases the pressure on the median nerve and relieves the symptoms of CTS.

Recovery from carpal tunnel surgery is typically quick. Most people can return to work and their usual activities within a few weeks.



Prevention is Better Than Cure

While there is no sure way to prevent CTS, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. These include:

Wearing A Splint or Brace

Wearing a splint or brace can help to support the hand and wrist. This can reduce the stress on the tissues around the median nerve and prevent the condition from worsening. The splint will absorb some of the impacts from activities that require repetitive hand and wrist motions.

Avoiding Activities That Require Repetitive Motions

Avoiding activities that require repetitive motions of the hand and wrist is another way to prevent CTS. These activities can strain the tissues around the median nerve, leading to inflammation and pain.

Taking Breaks Often

Taking breaks often is essential for preventing CTS. This gives the tissues around the median nerve a chance to recover from any stress or strain they may be under. When taking a break, try to avoid activities that could further aggravate the condition, such as typing or using a mouse.

Exercising The Hand and Wrist

Exercising the hand and wrist can help to keep them flexible and strong. This can reduce the risk of developing CTS. The most common exercise is known as flex and extension of the wrist. It is done by holding the hand and wrist in a fully extended position for 10 seconds and then flexing them as far as possible. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Keeping The Hand and Wrist Warm

Keeping the hand and wrist warm is vital for preventing CTS. Cold temperatures can cause the tissues around the median nerve to tighten, leading to inflammation and pain. Try to keep your hands and wrists warm when you are outside in cold weather or when you are working in a cool environment.

Pay Attention to Your Wrists

If you work at a computer all day, keeping your wrists at the right angle while typing is essential. This will help to reduce the risk of developing CTS. The best way to do this is to keep your wrists in a neutral position. This means that they should not be bent up or down. You should also try to keep them in line with your forearms. If you find your wrists sore, take a break and stretch them out.

These are some of how you can prevent CTS. Remember, prevention is always better than cure. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk of developing CTS. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action.



Clamp-on Adjustable Keyboard Tray KT2B

If you work at a computer, using an adjustable keyboard tray can help to reduce the risk of developing CTS. The Clamp-on Adjustable Keyboard Tray is a great option. It allows you to keep your wrists in a neutral position while typing. It also has a built-in palm rest that helps to keep your hands and wrists comfortable.

The Clamp-on Adjustable Keyboard Tray is easy to install and use. It employs sturdy metal C-Clamps that allow you to attach the tray without requiring any tools. It can be used on desks with a thickness of up to 2.1 inches.

It is perfect for those who often sit at a desk for extended periods. The tray extends 8.5 inches from the edge of your desk, allowing you to maintain maximum comfort while standing or sitting, and it can hold up to 15 pounds.

Final Thoughts

CTS is a condition that can affect anyone, and it should not be taken lightly. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed earlier, you must see a doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in preventing the condition from worsening. There are many ways to prevent CTS, and most are simple and easy to follow. Remember, prevention is always better than cure!