Have you ever felt a little wrist pain and thought, “oh no, this might be carpal tunnel”?
It’s a common worry for those who do a lot of typing or repetitive motions with their hands. Understanding the nature of carpal tunnel syndrome helps to relieve the anxiety you feel, watch out for symptoms, and prevent further damage.
We’re going to look at the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome today, also exploring what the syndrome is and why it starts in the first place. Hopefully, the information below will bring you some relief.
What Is the Carpal Tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a passageway surrounded by what are known as “carpal bones.” These bones constitute the base of your hand and connect to your finger bones and the dominant bones in your wrist.
They’re essentially the gateway to the hand from the wrist. The “tunnel” aspect of these bones comes from the fact that they form a sort of semi-circle through which different ligaments run. If you’re to lay your hand on its back, so the palm faces up, the carpal bones sit in a “U” shape facing upward.
Something called the transverse carpal ligament stretches over the top of that cup and completes the circle. Your median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel and extends through the thumb, pointer finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.
Along with the median nerve, all of the ligaments and tendons used in your hand work their way through the passage. It’s a little bit cramped in there, but normal use of one’s hand doesn’t cause any problems.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The trouble comes when someone uses their hand repetitively in the same way, over and over again. Typing, playing an instrument, knitting, sewing, and using tools for work are all ways that problems arise.
Those motions irritate the ligaments, inflaming them and causing them to expand. When one or more ligaments or tendons get inflamed, the space available for the rest of the passageway shrinks. After a while, that space shrinks in such a way that the median nerve pushes up against the transverse carpal ligament.
Undue pressure on the main nerve leads to many negative consequences.
The Signs of Carpal Tunnel
The signs of carpal tunnel typically start with numbing or tingling or the first three fingers. Your thumb, pointer, and middle finger might have a strange sensation as symptoms start.
You might not notice a lack of feeling or any pain at first, but you’ll feel a sort of tiredness in your hand and wonder if something is going wrong. After a while, you could notice that you lose feeling in those fingers for periods of time, particularly when you’re using a repetitive motion.
If those symptoms stick around throughout the day after you’ve worked using your hands repetitively, there’s a chance that carpal tunnel syndrome is the culprit.
Those symptoms are the first ones to look out for, as they’re indicative of a problem that’s getting a little worse with time.
It’s also worth noting that the median nerve doesn’t just run through the fingers. It branches out like a tree, with smaller and smaller extensions reaching through that region of your hand.
When you pinch off that section, the region from your thumb to your middle finger may go numb throughout. The skin, the palm, and other areas could all feel a little different.
Weakness in the Hands
After symptoms start to get worse, you’ll notice that your hands are weaker than they once were. It might get harder to do your repetitive activity like type or play your instrument.
Further, it could get harder to hold cups, pick things up, or maintain any measure of hand strength. Things can escalate significantly and lead to loss of your hand function if you’re not careful and get it checked out by a doctor.
Untreated carpal tunnel syndrome leads to permanent nerve damage in a lot of people. However, there are ways that you can prevent symptoms from getting any worse.
Preventative Measures to Take
The first thing you should do is ask yourself whether there are ways to adjust the repetitive motion that you’re doing. Most professions that involve fine-hand movement have found solutions for carpal tunnel syndromes in one way or another.
For example, those who do a lot of typing could use a new keyboard tray. Ergonomic work materials like keyboard trays and appropriate chairs do a lot to ward off carpal tunnel syndrome.
It’s also important to do wrist and hand stretches to strengthen your hand and the ligaments in the carpal tunnel. The more healthy activity you give those ligaments, the better they’ll be able to stay lubricated and free from inflammation.
Studies suggest that higher levels of physical activity reduce the level of inflammation, even in individuals that have chronic inflammation. So, a healthy regimen of stretches and physical activity might be the ticket to warding off symptoms and bringing your wrist back to normal.
Options for Treatment
Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment varies depending on the severity of the issue at hand. A serious intervention involves light surgery. The transverse carpal ligament gets cut to give more space to all the occupants of that region.
Your ligaments, tendons, and median nerve get a little more space, so they don’t rub against one another. In other cases, a physical therapist will ask you to adjust the way you do things, do particular stretches, and strengthen your muscles with certain exercises.
There’s typically a way to treat the symptoms, however bad. So long as you visit the doctor to assess the situation, you have options to move forward with.
Want to Get More Health Insights?
Hopefully, our look at the signs of carpal tunnel was useful to you. We hope you’re not feeling any of the signs or symptoms described above. If you are, though, there’s hope for help.
We’re here to help you learn more about carpal tunnel pain, wrist issues, carpal tunnel symptoms, and more. Explore our site for more ideas on getting keeping yourself healthy and free from pain.