Although carpal tunnel syndrome is mild and common, it can still significantly affect the sufferer.
For this reason, seeking professional help when symptoms occur is essential.
In this article, you will find more information on this musculoskeletal disorder: from signs and symptoms to the best prevention tips.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
First of all, it is important to know that the wrist is a real tunnel for more than one muscle tendon, for the median nerve, as well as for various veins and arteries. These structures are held in place by the annular ligament – which literally acts as a restraint band to hold them in the wrist.
Since space is limited from the outset, it is not uncommon for a condition to increase pressure on the components of the wrist. Specifically, when the median nerve is affected by this pressure and irritation of the nerve occurs, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The main cause of carpal tunnel syndrome remains the execution of repetitive movements of the wrist or hand.
It goes without saying that certain professions have more than one worker suffering from this syndrome at least once in their life (office workers, hairdressers, seamstresses, etc.). Nevertheless, other less common causes are possible, such as
- The practice of certain activities such as video games, and any static hobby that still suggests repetitive movement of the hand or wrist with an accessory
- Many sports such as tennis, baseball, cycling, weightlifting and golf
- Various diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Specific physical conditions such as pregnancy and menopause
- Car accidents, or any other trauma to the wrist, elbow or shoulder
What Are The Symptoms?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is easy to detect, due to the localized nature of the signs and symptoms. The most common ones reported by sufferers are:
- Localized wrist pain, which tends to be exacerbated during the night
- A loss of strength and motor skills when lifting or moving an object
- A sensation of numbness or tingling in the fingers (especially the thumb, index and middle fingers)
- Pain that radiates to the elbow and sometimes to the shoulder
How To Relieve And Treat Pain?
As with all musculoskeletal imbalances, there are different stages of severity. Here we review the general clinical stages of carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as the treatments and options available for pain relief.
At this stage, symptoms are present, but sporadic and tolerable. Since the damage is minimal, this is where treatments are most effective and least invasive. Generally, in these cases, our professionals suggest:
- Wearing a wrist orthosis that adjusts to the person’s daytime activities (straight or slanted models)
- The practice of a series of exercises to optimize the mobility of the structures and reduce the pressure on the median nerve
Here, the pain is more intense and more frequent. The affected person also notes that the pain is now more incapacitating. Treatment options at this stage include:
- Wearing a brace (one day and one night) to prevent worsening of symptoms, decrease pain and limit problematic axes and pressure points
- Taking medication to control pain
- Daily personalized exercises, specifically designed to increase neural mobility
- Specific treatments such as physiotherapy and ultrasound sessions to mobilize the carpal bones and relieve affected tissue
In this state, the discomfort becomes so severe that it wakes the person up during the night. Many also note that the pain radiates down to the shoulder. There is a significant loss of strength in the hand, as well as numbness in the fingers.
At this stage, surgery is often the only option for treating carpal tunnel. Post-operative follow-up is then initiated to ensure optimal healing of the affected tissue.
Some exercices for carpel tunnel
Tips For Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If, as mentioned above, people who perform repetitive wrist movements as part of their work or leisure activities are the most affected, they benefit more than anyone else from integrating prevention into their daily lives.
Our experts are unanimous on the effectiveness of certain tips such as
- Remembering the symptoms and consulting without delay as soon as they appear (even if they are slight and irregular)
- Prioritize frequent short breaks when the hand and wrist must repeat certain movements over long periods of time (keyboarding time, etc.)
- Adapt your workplace according to the best ergonomic practices recommended by your employer, your professional association or your place of training
- Consult a professional such as an orthotist-prosthetist if you are affected by a combination of various risk factors, in order to effectively prevent the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome
Validated by Jacinte Bleau, President and orthotist at Médicus