If you work any job or hobby that involves repeating the same movement of your hands and wrists, you may be at risk for the painful condition carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS are a collection of symptoms that can include tingling, numbness, burning, and pain from the wrist to the fingers. Also medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone), pregnancy, and overweight can also cause symptoms of CTS.
To understand why CTS occurs, it helps to take a look inside the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway that runs through the wrist. It is only about the size of a postage stamp, but is crowded with nerves, blood vessels, and nine different tendons, packed in like strands of spaghetti, that control finger movement. Repetitive motions or medical conditions can cause the tendons to swell, decreasing blood flow and compressing the median nerve, which supplies the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. This compression can cause the numbness, pain, tingling, and burning called carpal tunnel syndrome. If left unchecked, muscle wasting and permanent damage to nerves can result.
The key to beating this syndrome is prevention making changes before CTS becomes a problem. If youíre already experiencing the tingling, numbness, and pain associated with CTS, you may be able to prevent further damage and promote healing by making a few changes in your lifestyle. The tips that follow can help reduce symptoms of CTS. If your symptoms are severe or if they donít resolve after two weeks of self-care see your doctor.
Practice good nutrition, and stay in shape extra pounds may aggravate the symptoms try keeping your weight within five to ten pounds of your ideal weight. More fat between your tissues can reduce the space in the tunnel in your wrist, putting more pressure on the median nerve causing pain and numbness.
Take mini-breaks, fatigue in the joints or muscles is a warning sign that the body is trying to tell you something-change your pattern of working. Stopping for a few minutes every half hour or a full 15 minutes every two hours and perform one of three stretches:
1. Gently push the right palm and fingers backward with the left palm until you feel a slight tugging in the right wrist. Then gently push forward on the back of the right hand. Repeat on left hand and wrist as needed.
2. Hold your hand in front of you with the palm facing out. Slowly perform a clawing motion several times. Repeat with other hand if needed.
3. Technically, known as spanning, this simple exercise is also known as instant PT-physical therapy. Pianists, and other musicians all have benefited from it. Spanning is simple reaching your arms straight out in front of you, keeping them at shoulder level, and spreading your fingers as far apart as possible. Relax the digits and do it again, five times in all. The goal is to counter-act the cramping your hand and fingers have endured all day.
When your wrists feel locked up with aching pain, you may be able to rub it away. Hereís an acupressure treatment worth trying, adjusted for self-treatment. It may also reduce associated swelling and inflammation, if practiced daily.
Using the uninjured (or less painful) hand, press and rub two spot in the middle of the other wrist, above and below, that are located two-and-a- half finger widths from the wrist joint. One spot is just about where your watch face rests (feel for the valley of tendons), The other spot in on the inner forearm (on the arteries). Press both spot simultaneously; using thumb and fingers; then release. Repeat as needed. Most important, keep it up every day until the pain lessons or vanishes.
The Rolf Approach
An alternative to surgery that is gaining favor with health care practitioners nationwide is the Rolf system of bodywork. This program of structural integrations treats the problem in a more holistic manner. Rather than trying to work on one tendon of a single area of tightened, inflamed tissue in the tunnel of the wrist through which the median nerve and several muscle tendons pass, the Rolf method attends to the fingers, wrist, arms, shoulder and thorax.
Through a series of massage sessions, Rolfing reworks the relationship among all those body parts. The goal is to bring the inflamed and injured tissues to a point where they can reside comfortably again, and heal.
Ice Pack or Heat
If you are having symptoms, use ice to reduce swelling and inflammation. Place an ice pack on the wrist and forearm for 5 to 15 minutes. Heat can worsen CTS, heat may be good for loosening sore muscles, but you should never use heat with a nerve problem it causes the tissue to swell, which can make the problem worse.
Eating foods high in vitamin B6 may help reduce discomfort from swelling. Inflammation resulting from carpal tunnel syndrome may be reduced by bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple. Also, foods that are high in riboflavin may be beneficial for circulation.
Watch for symptoms, and take action. Pay attention to early warring signs of CTS, such as morning stiffness in the hand or arms, clumsiness, inability to make a fist, or thumb weakness, and take preventive measure and self-care action immediately.
This information is for informational purpose only and is not intended to replace the care or advice of a physician.