Do you wake up feeling like you need to shake out your wrists? Do you have difficulty gripping items or experience shooting pain up your wrist? If this sounds like you, you may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that affects about 5 percent of the total United States population.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of the median nerve being compressed or squeezed. The median nerve is housed within the carpal tunnel and runs from the palm up the forearm. This nerve is responsible for the sensations you experience in your palm as well as your thumb and all fingers except the little one. This nerve also helps these parts to move. When the nerve becomes compressed, you may experiencing the following symptoms:
Poor grip strength
Contrary to common belief, long-term use of the computer doesn't lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, nor does repetitive activity at work or home. The cause is an underlying problem that causes the nerve to become compressed. According to the NIH, common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Another group at risk are individuals who do assembly line work. If you have any of these conditions or risk factors, or suspect you do, and have been experiencing the symptoms previously mentioned, make an appointment to see your physician.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Before beginning treatment, it's important to see your physician for a proper evaluation and diagnosis. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) your doctor will probably recommended resting the wrist for a couple of weeks, usually in a splint to avoid use or strain, and icing if necessary. This will provide a clearer picture of the severity of your symptoms and help determine the best course of action. If you're experiencing inflammation, your doctor may also recommend a prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication to reduce inflammation.
From there, physical exercises can be tried to stretch and strengthen the wrists, including yoga. Be sure to practice all physical treatments under the guidance of a professional to prevent injury. For the most extreme cases, usually lasting around six months, surgery may be recommended.
More Tips for Managing Symptoms
If you're looking to prevent future flare-ups of carpal tunnel syndrome, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following actions:
Use less force for repetitive tasks like typing or writing.
Rest your hands and wrists frequently.
Sit up straight.
Don't overextend the wrists.
Keep hands and wrists warm and stable, if necessary, with gloves or a splint.
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