Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is one of the most common nerve entrapment syndromes. Most common amongst mature adults and seniors people between 45-60 years, it can make everyday life challenging; as even simple activities such as lifting a bag, reading a newspaper, or even a simple handshake feel very difficult.
WHAT IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?
The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow opening at the wrist through which several tendons (fibrous connective tissues) and a median nerve travels from the forearm to hand. Functionally, the median nerve provides sensation and controls movement in the thumb and all the fingers except the little finger. In the case of a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome patient, the tunnel becomes narrow or the tissue surrounding tendons swell, triggering compression of the median nerve.
SYMPTOMS & CAUSES
With CTS affecting either one or both hands, a patient can experience one or more symptoms
- Numbness, tingling sensation, pain in all the fingers, except little finger
- Pain can extend from wrist to arm and shoulder
- Weakness in the hand and loss of grip (dropping things)
- Inability to sleep during nights due to sudden pain
- Fluid accumulation in wrist joints because of conditions like Hypothyroidism, Obesity & Menopause.
- Irritation of median nerve due to inflammatory changes in wrist joints from Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Fracture of the wrist bone or dislocation or bone spur, that puts pressure on the Median Nerve.
- Nerve damage due to Diabetes
- Repetitive jobs that cause constant flexing of the wrist/hand, leading to swelling of tendons around median nerve.
- Increased pressure on the median nerve from tumors such as Lipoma.
- Hereditary factors such as family history of a smaller Carpal Tunnel.
I SUSPECT I HAVE CTS. WHAT NEXT?
Before it gets worse, visit a doctor, as early diagnosis can help treat without surgical intervention. Doctors normally perform physical examination followed by an electromyogram and nerve conduction test to diagnose it.
If you are diagnosed with mild to moderate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, then the doctors may recommend:
- Medications that include Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and analgesics. Steroids are often prescribed as cortisone injections to relieve pain and swelling
- Your hand and wrist need adequate rest to treat CTS, so it is advisable to avoid strenuous activities. Wearing a wrist splint at night will help control the pain during sleep
- Treating the underlying health condition that is causing CTS - like obesity, diabetes, thyroid hormonal dysfunction or high blood pressure - is a priority
- Regular cold compression using ice packs or cold gel packs can provide pain relief
- Surgery may be recommended in case of severe damage to the median nerve. If left untreated, permanent damage to the nerve is possible
VIEW DAILY LIVING AIDS AND PAIN RELIEF PRODUCTS TO MANAGE CTS. Click here
MANAGING DAILY ACTIVITIES
While preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may not be possible, you can reduce the strain on your hand by adopting some simple lifestyle changes
- Take frequent breaks from performing repetitive jobs.
- Use relevant ergonomic devices while operating a computer.
- Focus on proper seating and table height, an ergonomic keyboard and wrist pads
- Use keyboard alternatives while handling computers and mobile phones.
- Try voice commands or stylus pens
- Women are 3 times more likely to get CTS than men (4). It might help to use modern kitchen equipment to replace repetitive tasks like grinding or chopping in the kitchen.
- Avoid sleeping on the hand to prevent stress and pain.
- Lose weight if you are overweight and undertake regular exercises.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is usually an outcome of lifestyle activities such as excessive use of computers. Nevertheless, with more & more elderly people adopting technology either for economic independence or recreation, the incidence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is rising amongst them.