What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel syndrome is a painful and disabling disorder. When your median nerve, which runs from your forearm into your hand, is significantly compressed over a period of time, the tendons become inflamed and this causes you pain, weakness, or numbness in your hand, thumb, fingers, wrist, and forearm. The median nerve has 2 functions: it is responsible for your sense of touch and the nerve signals that move the muscles in your hand. In particular, the median nerve provides sensation to your thumb, index finger, middle finger and the middle-finger side of the ring finger. Literally, the “Carpal Tunnel,” where the median nerve and tendons are contained, is a narrow, rigid channel of ligament and bones at the base of the hand.
Although painful sensations may be an indication of another condition, Carpal Tunnel syndrome is the most common of the entrapment neuropathies, a group of disorders of the peripheral nerves that causes pain and/or loss of function of the nerves as a result of chronic compression.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
Carpal Tunnel syndrome usually starts with a gradual, vague aching in your wrist that can extend to your hand (especially your thumb and index and middle fingers) or forearm. This aching will develop into a frequent burning or itching sensation in the aforementioned area. Some Carpal Tunnel sufferers report that their fingers feel useless and swollen, even though there is little to no swelling visible. The most common Carpal Tunnel syndrome symptoms are:
- Tingling or numbness in your fingers or hand, especially your thumb, index, middle or ring fingers (but not your little finger). This sensation frequently occurs while driving a vehicle or holding a phone or a newspaper or upon awakening. To get relief from Carpal Tunnel, sufferers often “shake out” their hands.
- Pain in or extending from your wrist and up your arm to your shoulder or down into your palm or fingers, especially after forceful or recurrent use. This pain usually occurs on the palm side of your forearm.
- A loss of dexterity and strength in your hands and the inability to grasp objects as usual.
- A constant loss of feeling and/or motor control in some fingers, indicating that the median nerve is cut off at the wrist because of compression of the nerve at the carpal ligament and a sign of advanced Carpal Tunnel syndrome
Your symptoms will first appear in one or both hands, often during the night or first thing in the morning since many people flex their wrists while sleeping. As symptoms worsen, you will begin to feel the tingling during the day, too. Some people even report being unable to tell between hot and cold by touch. In chronic and/or untreated cases, the muscles at the base of your thumb may even deteriorate.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel syndrome is basically caused by continual pressure on the median nerve. The exact cause of that pressure is usually not known, nor is it clear which activities cause the syndrome. However, it is safe to say that if your work or hobbies require you to perform awkward, repetitive wrist or finger motions, aggressive pinching or gripping, or working with vibrating tools, you have a higher risk of developing this painful condition. The following are the most commonly considered possible causes:
- Repetitive use or injury. Some studies suggest that excessive use or strain in certain job tasks that require a combination of repetitive, forceful and awkward or stressed motions of your hands and wrists may cause Carpal Tunnel syndrome. Some examples include the regular use of power tools and heavy assembly-line work. Although repetitive computer use is commonly considered to be a culprit, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to prove this association.
- Certain health conditions, including:
- Certain hormonal disorders, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, and menopause
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Fluid retention due to pregnancy (fortunately, Carpal Tunnel syndrome experienced during pregnancy usually improves after delivery)
- Cigarette smokers may experience worse symptoms and slower recovery than nonsmokers
- Deposits of amyloid, an abnormal protein produced by cells in your bone marrow
- Hereditary physical characteristics. If you have close relatives who’ve suffered from Carpal Tunnel syndrome, you may be more likely to develop it due to inherited physical characteristics, such as the shape of your wrist or a narrower than average Carpal Tunnel.
Early diagnosis and stopping carpal tunnel pain fast with treatment are important in order to avoid permanent damage to the median nerve. Your wrist should be examined for tenderness, swelling, warmth, and discoloration; test each finger for sensation and the muscles at the base of the hand for strength and signs of weakness. Specific tests can be performed to try to produce the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel syndrome:
- The Tinel test – a tapping or pressing on your wrist. You may have Carpal Tunnel syndrome if you feel a tingling or shock-like sensation.
- The Phalen, or wrist-flexion, test – hold your forearms upright by pointing your fingers down and pressing the backs of your hands together. You may have Carpal Tunnel syndrome if you feel a tingling or increasing numbness in the fingers within 1 minute.
Myths and Facts
Myth: Carpal Tunnel syndrome occurs only in office workers or factory assembly-line workers.
Fact: Many people with Carpal Tunnel syndrome have never done office work or worked on an assembly line.
Myth: Most pain in the hand is caused by Carpal Tunnel syndrome.
Fact: Carpal Tunnel syndrome is rarely indicative of a problem with the median nerve itself; it is almost always the result of a combination of circumstances which increase pressure upon the median nerve and tendons in the Carpal Tunnel.
Myth: Writer’s cramp is a symptom of Carpal Tunnel syndrome. Actually, writer’s cramp is a short term lack of acute muscular coordination accompanied by ache and pressure in the fingers, wrist, or forearm that is brought on by repetitive activity.
Fact: Men are 3 times less likely than women to develop Carpal Tunnel syndrome. The frequency in women peaks after menopause and increases in men during middle age.
Myth: Carpal Tunnel syndrome is a condition of the 1990s.
Fact: The first Carpal Tunnel syndrome occurrence on record was in the mid-1800s. The first Carpal Tunnel surgery was done in the 1930s. Carpal Tunnel syndrome has been well recognized by orthopedic surgeons since the 1960s.
Fact: While Carpal Tunnel syndrome occurs frequently, it does bring about a distinctive set of symptoms that differentiate it from other causes of hand pain.
Fact: Carpal Tunnel syndrome is not a circulatory system disorder, a common misconception due to the numbness that is characteristic of this disorder.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is at risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Adults develop Carpal Tunnel syndrome; it is rarely ever seen in children. Women are more likely than men to develop Carpal Tunnel syndrome, perhaps because the Carpal Tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men. Two groups of particular risk are:<
- People with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that directly affect the body’s nerves and make them more susceptible to compression.
- People who perform assembly-line work, such as manufacturing, sewing, finishing, cleaning, and meat, poultry, or fish packing. Although Carpal Tunnel syndrome is not proven to affect those in certain industry, it is 3 times more common among assemblers than among data-entry personnel. In fact, a 2001 study by the Mayo Clinic found heavy computer use (up to 7 hours a day) did not increase a person’s risk of developing Carpal Tunnel syndrome.
Where can I go for Information of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The internet is a great source for information on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but why spend hours searching when DermaTechRx™ can provide you with all the same information? Our informational eGuide is full of answers, suggestions and tips that we’ve collected from books, articles, customers and numerous other sources.
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How can Carpal Tunnel syndrome be prevented?
There are no proven strategies to prevent Carpal Tunnel syndrome, but to protect your hands from a variety of ailments, you may take the following precautions:
- Reduce your force and relax your grip. Most people use more force than needed to perform many tasks involving their hands. For example, if your work involves a cash register, hit the keys softly. Also, use a big pen with an oversized, soft grip adapter and free-flowing ink for prolonged handwriting so that you won’t have to grip the pen tightly or press as hard on the paper.
- Take frequent breaks. Every 15-20 minutes, give your hands and wrists a break by gently stretching and bending them. Alternate tasks whenever possible. Taking these breaks is even more important if you use equipment that vibrates or requires you to exert a great amount of force.
- Watch your form. Avoid bending your wrist all the way up or down. Adopting a relaxed middle position is best. If you use a keyboard, keep it at elbow height or slightly lower.
- Improve your posture. Bad posture can cause your shoulders to roll forward. When your shoulders are in this position, the muscles in your neck and shoulder are shortened and this compresses the nerves in your neck. This can eventually affect your wrists, fingers and hands.
- Keep your hands warm. You’re more likely to develop hand pain and stiffness if you work in a cold environment. If you can’t control the temperature at work, you can put on fingerless gloves to keep your hands and wrists warm.
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What research is being done?
DermaTechRx™ has conducted extensive testing on TriRelief for treating Carpal Tunnel syndrome in FDA approved labs, yielding fantastic results. Although no conclusive evidence is available for Carpal Tunnel syndrome prevention, scientists are studying the pattern of development that occurs with Carpal Tunnel syndrome in an effort to better understand, treat, and prevent this painful condition. In addition, there is little hard evidence available to prove that repetitive and forceful movements of the hand and wrist during work or other activities cause Carpal Tunnel syndrome. However, speculative clinical trials are being conducted to investigate the power of education in reducing the onset of Carpal Tunnel syndrome.