Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that can cause pain and numbness in the hands and arms. This condition can become progressively worse if untreated. CTS can be caused by a number of things and symptoms can vary as well. Treatment options range from home remedy to therapy to surgery.
The carpal tunnel is a small passageway that runs from the arm into the hand. This tunnel acts as a protective barrier to the median nerve the 9 tendons that control movement and feeling in the thumb and first 3 fingers. CTS can occur if the median nerve becomes pinched, compressed, crowded, and/or irritated. If any of these happen one would begin to see symptoms of CTS which could include numbness or tingling in the hand and fingers, radiating pain up the palm side of the arm, hand weakness that causes one to drop items and stiffness in the hand, arm, and wrist. The onset of symptoms can stem from a number of different things. Symptoms can be linked to the anatomy of the patient. A wrist fracture could cause the pressure on the carpal tunnel causing any of the aforementioned symptoms. Because women generally have smaller carpal tunnel size, CTS is more prevalent in women than in men. Symptoms can also be linked to nerve damage conditions. If the tendons within the carpal tunnel become inflamed, they can put pressure on the median nerve causing symptoms. Additionally some studies show that workplace factors can impact the onset of symptoms associated with CTS. This would include vibrating tools and jobs that require repeated flexing of the wrist. One other cause that I would like to cover (because it is personal to me) is the onset of CTS due to rock-n-roll! I have played drums for almost 30 years and the beating that my hands and wrists have taken is monumental. In the last 5 years, symptoms have become especially grim. There are many drummers in the music community that have had problems similar to mine.
While there are some preventative measure such as healthy weight, exercise, and being a non-smoker, what can one do when they feel the onset of CTS? First and foremost you would visit your doctor. He or she might perform a physical test or possibly have your carpal tunnel area x-rayed. In some cases the physician may even perform a nerve conduction test. This test consists of sending electrical impulses through the nerve to see if the impulse slows down upon reaching the carpal tunnel. This would indicate a problem and thus could confirm the presence of CTS. If this is the case, there are remedies ranging from simple home remedies to all out surgery. Usually, if the problem is fairly early and minor, a person might be told to try wearing a splint on the wrists to keep them immobile at night when symptoms tend to be the worst. NSAID pain relievers (ibuprofen) can sometimes relieve pain but this will not necessarily correct the problem. Hand therapy with a physical therapist or an occupational therapist may also be suggested. If the problem is more severe, a doctor may suggest surgery. Surgery can range from invasive (open approach) to less invasive (endoscopy). Surgery can certainly help but it is not without risks.
Although there are many different ways to cause CTS, there are just as many ways to deal with CTS. Different actions may be right for different individuals and the best thing to do in this case in consult your physician.