Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition which causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and wrist (which can radiate up the arm as well). The carpal tunnel is actually a narrow, rigid passageway (about the diameter of your thumb) located on the underside of the wrist which houses the median nerve and various tendons. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of your thumb and fingers (except the little finger); when the median nerve becomes compressed it results in the pain, tingling, and numbness which are symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
While we often associate carpal tunnel wrist and syndrome with improper hand positioning while typing (usually work related), there are actually numerous causes of this condition. A 2001 study by Mayo Clinic revealed intensive computer use (up to 7 hours a day) "did not increase a person's risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome" (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke).
Gender and genetics may be the primary reasons behind carpal tunnel pain; some people are genetically predisposed to smaller carpal tunnels, and women are more likely to have smaller carpal tunnels than men (women are three times more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel pain than men). Other causes of carpal tunnel include hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, menopause/pregnancy (via fluid retention), obesity, an overactive pituitary gland, diabetes (increases your risk of nerve damage), wrist swelling from a trauma or injury (i.e. sprain or fracture), work stress, and repeated hand and/or wrist movements (especially when improper positioning is also at play). People working in an assembly line type of work (manufacturing, sewing, meat packing, etc) are most likely to suffer from carpal tunnel pain. If you are concerned you have carpal tunnel pain, your doctor can perform a physical examination as well as xrays and tests if needed to diagnose you with carpal tunnel syndrome. Early detection and treatment are key to preventing permanent damage to the median nerve.
There are numerous options to provide carpal tunnel relief and treatment. Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome usually begins conservatively and more aggressive options are tried only after earlier treatments fail. Initially over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help reduce swelling in the carpal tunnel. Most doctors recommend a carpal tunnel splint to help relieve hand and wrist pain. There are a wide variety of braces for carpal tunnel on the market. The key to an effective carpal tunnel wrist brace is it provides support to keep the wrist joint immobile (usually via a flat, thin piece of hard plastic or metal). The natural resting position for your wrist is actually bent slightly backward, in a thirty degree position so the carpal tunnel splint should comfortably maintain your wrist in that position. Among the wide variety of splints and braces for carpal tunnel we carry, the Saebo Stretch Hand Splint and Dorsal Carpal Tunnel Splint Hand Orthosis are among our customer's favorites.
Carpal tunnel wrist wraps offer support but provide some flexibility for your wrist as well (most don't include the rigid stays found in the braces above). The patented Smart Glove Wrist Support was developed by an orthopedic/hand surgeon, while the Therion Balance MTR Magnetic Wrist Support utilizes magnets to increase the recovery process.
Hot and cold therapy can provide pain relief and reduce swelling. Some carpal tunnel wrist supports provide both reinforcement and hot/cold therapy such as the ActiveWrap Wrist Heat & Ice Wrap and the Elasto-Gel Wrist Wrap.
Far Infrared Heat Therapy actually resonates with the water molecules in the body (remember we're composed of 90% water) to increase blood circulation, the immune system, and helps soft tissues heal faster; infrared therapy penetrates soft tissues more deeply making it ideal for carpal tunnel pain relief. Products like the Thermotex Wrist Infrared Heating Pad and the Medlight 630 Pro Near Infrared Light Therapy Device provide high quality pain relief.
The FDA approved LaserTouchOne Cold Laser Therapy Device is the first pain relief product of its kind to combine the healing functions of both laser light and micro-current electrical stimulation therapies into one, convenient, hand-held applicator.
Other carpal tunnel pain relief treatments include Massage Therapy, Ultrasound Therapy, Acupuncture, and Chiropractic care. A study by the University of Pennsylvania found people with carpal tunnel syndrome who did Yoga twice a week for a period of eight weeks had a more significant reduction in pain than the control group (people with carpal tunnel who wore carpal tunnel splints). Some carpal tunnel sufferers find it useful to retrain their bodies to move in ways less likely to aggravate the median nerve. Create a more by regularly stretching your wrist and hands with the innovative Xtensor Hand Exerciser.
While there aren't any proven strategies to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, you can minimize stress on your hands and wrist by taking frequent breaks, watching your form, improving your posture, keeping your hands warm, reducing your force when doing activities with your hands (i.e. don't strike the keys roughly when typing), and relaxing your grip when writing with a pen.
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