Dealing With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Work can get on your nerves—literally. Especially for those spending hours at their desks, women are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes numbness and weakness in your wrist and fingers. This condition occurs when pressure is put on the median nerve at the wrist. The name “carpal tunnel syndrome” comes from the fact that the median nerve, as well as the tendons that bend fingers, are located within the carpal tunnel. Swelling and other types of irritation in the area can reduce the size of the tunnel and compress the median nerve.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome come on gradually, but the earlier the treatment the more effective it is. Therefore, it is important to be watchful for these signals. Most likely starting at night and in the dominant hand, your palm will feel numb and your fingers useless. If you wake up feeling the need to shake your wrists out, it could be an early sign of carpal tunnel.

As the syndrome progresses, the tingling sensation in your hands will occur more often and at different times during the day. It will gradually become more difficult to grip items or complete dexterous tasks. Numbness will likely be felt most heavily in the middle and index fingers, as well as parts of the ring finger and thumb.

Carpal tunnel syndrome itself is not permanent, but if you do not receive treatment, it can lead to lasting effects such as nerve damage. Some with chronic carpal tunnel syndrome have reported the inability to sense a difference in temperature through touch. Muscles can also begin to deteriorate in the base of your thumb.

There are multiple options when it comes to alleviating the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Wearing a splint will secure the wrist and keep it from bending. Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs can help with the pain. In general, actions to help reduce swelling and inflammation, such as icing your wrists, will also help reduce the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome; swelling is often a cause behind carpal tunnel. However, the best treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is to consult your doctor for further information. In more severe cases, your physician may recommend surgery to free the nerve from the source of pressure or inject steroids specifically to relieve pain.

If you don’t have carpal tunnel syndrome, there are still actions you can take to help your wrist health and prevent contracting this condition. Be sure to take breaks or alternate what you are doing so less time is spent consecutively performing the same motions. While you are working, do your best to relax; hitting the keys hard while typing can exacerbate wrist strain. Be vigilant; small things, like the aforementioned intensive typing, can be contributing stress to your wrist and fingers. Don’t bend your wrists too high or too low and make sure you are sitting properly to avoid compressing your nerves. Even the temperature of your office can be putting strain on the carpal tunnel. If your office is cold and you don’t have control over the thermostat, consider breaking out a pair of subtle, fingerless gloves to fend off stiffness in your hands while you work.

It’s difficult to pay attention to the minutiae of work when you’re in the middle of a project or fighting against deadlines. As much as an encumbrance as repeatedly adjusting your typing form may be, taking care of your wrist now will allow you to continue to work hard in the future. Even if a case of carpal tunnel syndrome does not cause permanent damage, the pain will definitely slow you down. Do what you can to prevent the pain. Typing more softly will allow you to work harder.