Some evidence suggests that around 5 percent of Americans suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, though it’s difficult to arrive at a definitive number. Some people just work through the agony and never visit a doctor. The physiology of carpal tunnel pain is not complex.
The carpal tunnel is a passageway on the underside of the wrist through which nerves and tendons that control thumb and finger movement pass. The passageway is small, and when it gets inflamed through a process like overuse or rheumatoid arthritis, look out! Pain, numbness, and tingling is the usual result. Our keyboard culture is likely a frequent contributor to the issue. But what if you don’t want surgery? Here are some tips for relief.
Treat the Underlying Disease: Get tests done to see if you have an overall arthritis condition. If so, and you are able to treat that, the carpal tunnel pain might improve as well. From disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs to biologics, arthritis treatments are moving forward by leaps and bounds.
Rest Those Hands: If there is any way possible to do so, you might consider giving your hands and wrists a break from their usual activity. A few weeks of reduced activity could be enough to allow the inflammation to subside, which may mean less pain. If you can find a way to permanently reduce the workload on your hands, so much the better.
Wrist Splints: For some people, there is no realistic way to cease doing the movement that causes pain. An alternative approach is to wear a wrist splint either during the day or at night while sleeping. It holds your wrist in a neutral position, reducing some of the stress, at least.
Injections: Cortisone, a steroid, is a powerful anti-inflammatory medicine that can be injected directly into joints troubled by pain and inflammation. While probably not a permanent solution, it can provide magical relief for a period of time lasting from weeks to several months or longer, depending upon the severity of your condition.
Get the Exercises: Doctors and physical therapists have developed a series of exercise to help alleviate carpal tunnel issues. The goal is to keep the wrists limber through various hand stretches performed regularly. Even if you don’t have the problem yet, if your job requires repetitive hand motion, start doing the exercises now!
Take Your Breaks: In this overworked culture, people sometimes don’t take their allotted breaks. To avoid carpal tunnel issues, you need to change this habit. While federal law doesn’t mandate rest breaks, most employers have some sort of arrangement for down time every four hours worked. If you keyboard or use heavy vibrating machinery all day, take your breaks to give your wrists a rest.
Alternatives: Don’t get the impression that the only thing you can do for carpal tunnel issues is rest, take drugs, or have surgery. The entire field of alternative medicine and nutritional supplementation is open to you. Some approaches are acupuncture, chiropractic, magnets, massage, and B6 supplementation. There is little standardized research to prove or disprove these approaches, but it might be worth your while to give them a whirl.
The bottom line with carpal tunnel pain is that it is caused by inflammation, and you need to figure out a way to reduce it. If nothing else works, you can always consider surgery. It is a simple process that widens the carpal tunnel passageway, providing more room for those nerves and tendons to operate. Even though the process has been with us since the 1950s, there is always a risk when you have your body cut open. Only you can make the call whether or not the risk is worth the possible gain.