Keep in mind 5 October, 2018 Maria Clara Restrepo E.
The onset of carpal tunnel syndrome is often the result of repetitive muscle movements or diseases that affect the nerves.
Medical Advisor Dayra Erazo – Physiatrist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
At some point you have surely heard about carpal tunnel syndrome or you know somebody that has had it. You may have even been given exercises to prevent it from happening, but do you know how to identify it?
Its most common symptoms include pain, numbness, a loss of strength and a tingling sensation that stretches from the wrist to the arm. Some may think that it is just a cramp, but when it becomes a frequent and repetitive issue, it is time to suspect carpal tunnel syndrome.
This condition generally affects people whose work involves repetitive and manual movements such as: people who type all day, hairstylists, people who do movements that require a lot of strength and work in fields such as carpentry, assembly or packaging lines, and violinists, other musicians, gardeners, tailors, people who embroider, cooks and mechanics. According to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, however, this condition is more frequent among women, most likely because their carpal tunnel is smaller than that of men’s.
Where is the carpal tunnel located?
According to Dayra Yolima Erazo Ordoñez – specialist in physical medicine, rehabilitation and biological medicine – the carpal tunnel is located at the base of the hand near the wrist. It is a thin canal of ligaments and bones at the base of the hand that contains nerves and tendons. This syndrome occurs when this area is injured or when pressure is placed on the median nerve. Generally, it affects the dominant hand and causes intense pain.
While its warning signs begin slowly, as they worsen, holding onto objects can even become a complicated maneuver. This is because the median nerve is responsible for bringing feeling to the thumb and fingers (except the pinky finger) as well as to some small muscles in the hand.
People with diabetes or nerve conditions are also known to suffer from this syndrome. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists that other causes of this syndrome are wrist traumas or wrist injury, obesity, an overactive pituitary gland, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, mechanical problems in the wrist joint, work stress, the repetitive use of vibrating hand tools, fluid retention during pregnancy, menopause, or developing a cyst or tumor in the tunnel.
In terms of prevention, ergonomics and taking active breaks are key. Ergonomics involves keeping the wrists in a natural position at work, and active breaks consist of taking breaks and stretching. Erazo also recommends not sleeping on top of the wrists and avoiding sleeping with your wrists in a flexed position. She also emphasizes the importance of keyboard placement, “When typing, make sure your wrists are in a neutral position and that they are not too curved or stretched out.”
If a diagnosis is made, treatment depends on the state of the condition. If the carpal tunnel is mild or moderate, measures include using a splint (semi-rigid supports to keep the wrist in a neutral position), physical therapy, taking anti-inflammatories, improving ergonomics and including active breaks in your daily routine. When it is already severe, the procedure is surgery. Surgery is suggested when symptoms last longer than six months or if there is muscle damage.
Last, the NIH explains that alternative therapies such as acupuncture or seeing a chiropractor “…have been beneficial to some people, but their effectiveness has yet to be proven. One exception is yoga, which has shown to reduce pain and improve grip strength.”
Muscle strengthening routines
Upon the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, physiatrist Dayra Erazo suggests practicing the following movements regularly as a preventive measure.
1. Put your palms together in a prayer position in front of your chest, with your fingers pointing upwards. Raise your elbows until you feel a stretch in both wrists and hold that position for about 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times a day.
2. Take the fingers of one hand and pull them backwards until you feel a stretch in the front part of the wrist. Do this for about 30 seconds and repeat with the other hand.
3. Place your wrist in a neutral position on a flat surface so that the palm of your hand is facing downwards. With your other hand, place pressure on the back of your wrist and try to lift your wrist upwards with your opposite hand placing resistance on it. Hold this position for 10 seconds and do 5 to 10 repetitions.
4. Lift a light ball in your hand with your palm facing upwards. Squeeze and flex your wrist. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a break in-between.
5. Rotate your wrist so that the palm of your hand is facing down. Squeeze the ball tightly and flex your wrist upwards. Do 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 10 repetitions with a break in-between.
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