Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the nerves that run through a small space in the wrist become compressed. It’s a condition that can cause numbness, tingling, weakness, and other problems in your hand.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The majority of people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome often have a combination of the following factors: (1)
- Pregnancy is generally accompanied by fluid retention, which can compress the nerve (this is usually only temporary)
- Wrist fractures can reduce the amount of space in the carpal tunnel
- Congenital factors that cause some people to be born with smaller carpal tunnel than others
- Overuse injury from awkward postures or repetitive hand movements.
Basically anything that causes inflammation or swelling can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Pins and needles
- Pain, particularly at night
- Darting pains from the wrist
- Radiated or referred pain into the arm and shoulder
- Weakness of the hand
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Make sure to treat your symptoms at home for 1-2 weeks before going to your doctor. It’s best to use these alternatives 2-4 times daily, as needed for carpal tunnel pain relief.
If you have a desk job or any hobby/job/profession that requires repetitive motion of the hands and wrists, but do not yet show signs of carpal tunnel pain, give this list a go. Perform these exercises, stretches, and therapies now to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome before it starts.
1. Take Breaks from Repetitive Tasks
Repetitive tasks such as typing and playing instruments are some of the most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you cannot avoid these tasks, set a timer at regular intervals of 15 minutes or so. Take a break and stretch your hands, wrists, and fingers. This will improve blood flow and give your median nerve a break. (2,3)
2. Wear a Carpal Tunnel Splint
Carpal tunnel splints are usually designed to be worn at night. The splints are designed to hold your hand and wrist in a neutral position that relieves pressure from the median nerve. In many cases, wearing a wrist splint while sleeping is enough to provide pain relief. Should you feel the need to wear the splint during the day, make sure it doesn’t strain other parts of your hand or arm. (4,5)
3. Relax Your Wrists
If you find that certain activities cause you to tense your hands or wrists, remind yourself to consciously relax them. (6) Use only as much force or tension as necessary, and take regular breaks. Avoid activities that cause extreme wrist flexion in any direction, and use supportive braces and splints as necessary.
4. Use an Ice Pack
Cold therapy is one of the best ways to reduce swelling and pain without taking a painkiller. Aim to ice your wrists for 10-15 minutes every hour (twice an hour for severe pain). For best results, alternate ice and heat as you feel necessary. (7)
5. Take Warm Baths
This can be a full-on relaxing bathing experience or a bath specifically for your hands and wrists. Try to get the water temperature between 92-100 degrees Fahrenheit. While under water, move your hands and wrists around, stretching and flexing to improve blood flow. Do this 3-4 times a day as needed for additional pain relief. (8)