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Identifying, preventing and treating carpal tunnel

March 19, 2018
This article was originally published in Wave magazine. For more health and wellness articles, please visit www.wavemag.ca
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common, painful disorder of the wrist and hand. It is caused by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist.  Symptoms include

  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in your hand and wrist, especially in the middle fingers; pain may radiate up into the forearm.
  • Increased pain with increased use of your hand, such as when you are driving or reading the newspaper.
  • Increased pain at night.
  • Weak grip and tendency to drop objects held in the hand.
  • Sensitivity to cold.
  • Muscle deterioration especially in the thumb (in later stages).
How does it happen?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. People who use their hands and wrists repeatedly in the same way (for example, illustrators, carpenters, and assembly-line workers) tend to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. It most often occurs in 30- to 60-year-old women.
How do I prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?

If you do very repetitive work with your hands, make sure that your hands and wrists are comfortable when you are using them. Take regular breaks from the repetitive motion. Avoid resting your wrists on hard or ridged surfaces for prolonged periods.

If you have a disease that is associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, effective treatment of the disease might help prevent this condition.

In some cases, the cause is not known and carpal tunnel syndrome cannot be prevented.

How do I treat it?

Follow your health-care provider’s recommendations. Also try the following:

  • Restricting use of your hand or changing the way you use it.
  • Changing your work station (the position of your desk, computer, and chair) to one that irritates your wrist less .
  • Wearing a wrist splint.
  • Exercises to strengthen your wrist.
  • Elevate your arm with pillows when you lie down.
  • Avoid activities that overuse your hand.
  • When you use a computer mouse, use it with the hand that does not have carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Find a different way to use your hand by using another tool or try to use the other hand.
  • Avoid bending your wrists.