Do you have pain in your hand and arm? Maybe it feels like numbness and tingling as well? It could also present as a weak thumb or you might have difficulty gripping or flexing your thumb. You could be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. This means that your median nerve has been squeezed or compressed as it traveled through your wrist.
Carpal bones are the small bones in your wrist. We have eight carpal bones: scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate. These bones together with connective tissue called the transverse carpal ligament form the “carpal tunnel”. Within the tunnel lie the flexor tendons of the hand and the median nerve. The transverse ligament is a very strong, tight band and this restricts too much stretch or ability to increase in the carpal tunnel size.
For carpal tunnel, it occurs when the tunnel is narrowed due to trauma, stress or a swelling in the synovium. The synovium are the tissues surrounding the median nerve. Normally it would help lubricate the tendons. When the synovium is swollen, it puts pressure on the median nerve which then leads to the numbness, tingling, weakness and pain you would feel in your hand.
Some of those at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome are pregnant women due to hormonal changes that can cause swelling or loosening of the ligaments. Hereditary carpal tunnel is also common in clients where they may have a naturally smaller carpal tunnel than others or an anatomic difference in their nerves, tendons and ligaments. If you have repetitive hand and wrist motions or prolonged hand and wrist motions that aggravate the flexor tendons, it can cause swelling to happen quicker. This happens when clients read books, hold their phones or drive for long hours. Other health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and hormone imbalances can also relate to carpal tunnel syndrome patients.
There are several ways to treat carpal tunnel. If you have it due to pregnancy, the pain should subside and syndromes should ease over time and you should feel better post-natal. Most patients are recommended non-surgical interventions first before moving forward to surgery to relieve the pain. Non-surgical methods include bracing or splinting. At our clinic, we recommend taping your wrist. All of these work to achieve the same thing: to reduce pressure on your median nerve and to lessen your symptoms and reduce aggravation. We also teach patients stretches for the wrist and the muscles that are tight and hypertonic. In most cases we do muscle therapy to release the flexor muscles and prevent further inflammation of the synovium.
If patients have severe pain, patients are also advised to take medication and NSAIDs if they are necessary to relieve the pain and inflammation and to help the nerve heal fully. Lastly and most importantly, all patients are advised to change their activity and to be mindful of not holding their hand and wrist in particular positions for too long. Anything done too much or too often could cause pain and inflammation. So it is best to perform actions in moderation with gentle stretching and relief in between.
If you feel pain in your wrists or have been suffering from any form of pain, feel free to give us a call and come in for a consultation. At the end of the day, a diagnosis of your condition is always the first step towards relieving your pain.