Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Tips To Ease The Pain At Home
CTS can occur in almost anyone, however it usually affects individuals above the age of 30 years. Those who use their wrists and hands to perform repetitive tasks are prone to the condition.
Those who use their wrists and hands in repetitive tasks are prone to CTS
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow canal in the wrist. It supports the median nerve and tendons, connecting the hand and forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common conditions affecting the hands and is accompanied by symptoms such as pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands . It is caused due to pressure on the median nerve in the wrist that provides sensation and power to the thumb, index middle and ring fingers. Other symptoms include pain in the wrist and fingers, weakness in the hands and in severe conditions, pain in the arms. The symptoms start manifesting gradually and may come and go, but if not treated the condition can worsen leading to constant pain. Frequent and repetitive movement of the hands create pressure on the median nerve causing CTS. This includes repetitive motions such as typing, wrist movements and holding something for a long period.
Who are at risk?
CTS can occur in almost anyone, however it usually affects individuals above the age of 30 years. Those who use their wrists and hands to perform repetitive tasks are prone to the condition. Patients with hypothyroidism, obesity, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes are at higher risk. It can also occur during pregnancy.
Taking care of CTS at home
Undertaking the following steps while at home can help manage the pain caused due to CTS:
- Take breaks between your repetitive tasks
- Wear splints on your wrists; this helps in keeping your wrists straight and relieves pressure on the median nerve
- Stretch your hands, do wrist exercises to improve blood circulation
- Keep your hands warm. If in pain, a hot compression helps in easing out the same
- Elevate your hands and wrists
- Change your hand/wrist position while performing activities
- Keep conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis which are the main causes of muscle weakness under check
- Take 15-minute breaks between repetitive activities to provide rest to the wrists and help your muscles relax
- Keep your hand and wrist straight while doing different things i.e., holding tools, pens straight
- Avoiding curling up your wrists
- Minimize repetitive hand movements
- Relax your grip while holding anything
When to see a doctor?
One must consult a medical expert on developing muscle pain. This is because as CTS progresses or worsens, the grip and the strength of the muscles shrink and cramp. If left untreated, the continuous pain can lead to reduced sensation in fingers, slower nerve impulses, less strength and coordination, and loss of motor control. In case, the median nerve is severely damaged, surgery needs to be conducted.
While the symptoms of CTS can be managed through simple tips, surgical intervention may be required in severe cases. Through surgery, the size of the tunnel is increased so that the pressure on the nerves, which passes through the tunnel, decreases. Once the surgery is done, it can take a few months to regain complete sensation in the operated area.
(Dr. Raman Kant Aggarwal, Director, Institute Of Musculoskeletal Disorders and Orthopaedics, Medanta Hospital Gurgaon)
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