An Overview of Carpal Tunnel: What It Is, What Causes It and How is it Treated

You just poured your morning coffee. You took a couple of sips, readied yourself for another productive day and sat down at your desk. But as you flexed your hands in preparation, you felt a shooting pain in your wrist and up your arm.

You’ve heard about writer’s block. But this was something else entirely. You’re a writer. It’s what you do. Without the use of your hands and fingers, you can’t do what you love. And even more importantly, you can’t get paid. You spend your day at the computer, writing the day away. On a good day, you pump out over ten thousand words. You’ve been at it for almost twenty years. That’s a lot of typing. And over the past couple months, you’ve been experiencing numbness in your wrist.

You’ve been trying to ignore it. Trying to convince yourself that it’s nothing. That it’s no big deal and that it’ll go away by itself.

But this is hard to ignore. Your hands are your livelihood. You depend on them day in and day out. You can’t afford to lose them. Even a day without using them can be disastrous in your line of work. What’s going on?

What’s Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligaments, nerves, tendons, and bones at the base of your hand. When your tendons get irritated or other swelling occurs in this area, it can cause the nerve to compress. The symptoms are usually gradual but can become quite severe. In extreme cases, it can be difficult to even hold objects.

Sometimes the cause of the disorder could be that you have a smaller carpal tunnel than normal. However, it can also be caused by wrist injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, and repetitive movements over time. Women are also three times as likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome.

How Do You Know if You Have It?

Carpal tunnel can cause tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers, hand, or arm. Most of the time, you’ll notice symptoms in your thumb, index finger, and the ring finger. A lot of people notice their symptoms when they relax for the night. And at the beginning of the disorder, you can find relief just by shaking your hand.

One telltale sign of carpal tunnel is when you have problems with your other fingers but don’t have any issues with your little finger. This is because a separate nerve is responsible for giving feeling to your pinky finger.

How Do You Treat It?

If you think you have carpal tunnel, it’s not something to be taken lightly. If untreated, carpal tunnel can develop into permanent nerve damage. Getting your carpal tunnel diagnosed early can make a huge difference. First, your doctor will ask if you have any health problems such as arthritis, hypothyroidism, or diabetes.

Once you’re cleared of the above conditions, your doctor will diagnose the disorder through a physical exam and a couple of specialized nerve tests. Most of the time, treating carpal tunnel is rather simple and focuses on resting your wrist and hand. This could include putting your hand in a splint and taking pain and anti-inflammatory medicines.

Mild symptoms can be treated at home with rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, and wrist splints. The sooner you start treatment, the better your chances of alleviating your symptoms and preventing any long-term damage to your nerve. However, in extreme circumstances, surgery may be required. This option is usually viewed as a last case scenario when the symptoms are so bad you can’t work or function even after getting treated for an extended period of time.

How Do You Prevent It?

If you’re worried about developing or worsening your carpal tunnel, there are some steps you can take to mitigate your risk. First of all, stay at a healthy weight, don’t smoke, and exercise to stay strong and flexible. There are also a couple ways you can take good care of your wrists. This includes keeping your wrist in a neutral position, using your hands instead of your fingers to hold things, keeping your wrist straight, and switching up your hands during repetitive movements. Taking anti-inflammatory medicines and eating anti-inflammatory foods on a daily
basis can also help prevent carpal tunnel.

Carpal tunnel can make your daily life a living hell.

You use your hands for almost everything and the condition can even make a simple task like brushing your teeth almost impossible. Those suffering from the disorder can’t even type a comment on this post without pain and discomfort.

If you’re feeling the effects of carpal tunnel, it’s important to get looked at as soon as possible. Learn more about the condition and book an appointment to come see us here.

Author
Dr. J. Michael Bennett

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