If you feel numbness, tingling, weakness, and other problems in your hand, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the palm-side of your hand. The median nerve controls movement and feeling in your thumb and first three fingers. In this article, we’ll be talking about the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome and things you can do to help prevent or lessen its symptoms.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Pressure on the median nerve is what causes carpal tunnel syndrome and it happens when swelling occurs or when other factors make the carpal tunnel smaller. Some of the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Illnesses such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.
- Making the same hand movements repeatedly, especially when the wrist is bent lower than the hands.
- Pregnancy and menopause may increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome because of fluid retention. Carpal tunnel syndrome associated with pregnancy generally gets better after delivery.
- Women seem to be more affected by carpal tunnel syndrome, which could be due to the fact that their carpal tunnel area is smaller than men’s.
- Certain medications, such as anastrozole, which is used to treat breast cancer, have been linked to carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Workplace factors, such as vibrating tools, a cold working environment, or working on an assembly line can create harmful pressure on the median nerve.
10 Ways to Help Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Use a softer touch.
If you work with tools, don’t grip them tightly when a normal grasp will do. For those who work on computers, try not to pound the keyboard when typing. Generally, keep an eye on how tense your hands are and how much pressure you’re putting on them.
Take frequent, quick breaks from repetitive activities to give your hands a rest. Breaks are a great time to practice some of the stretches described below.
Stretch your hands.
During a break, try some of these simple stretches:
Start with your hands in the prayer position, then spread your fingers as far apart as you can and make the “steeple” with your fingers. Now push them together while keeping your fingers together.
Simply shake your hands like you’ve just washed them and are trying to air dry them.
Start with your hands in a fist then slide your fingers up until they’re straight out. Repeat five to 10 times.
Quit smoking because it interferes with blood flow and makes carpal tunnel syndrome worse. Maintain a healthy weight – obesity contributes to a lack of activity, which can raise your risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Improve your posture.
Pay attention to how you hold yourself during the day and also at your workstation. Poor posture can cause you to roll your shoulders forward, which crunches your neck and makes wrist problems worse.
Mix it up.
If possible, try to switch up the things you do with your hands on a regular basis. Switch hands when doing certain tasks. Doing this will help give the muscles in your hand a break.
Keep your hands warm.
When your hands are cold, they get stiff and can worsen the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. If your work is cold, consider wearing fingerless gloves that keep your wrists warm.
Wearing a splint.
Splints keep the wrist straight can help reduce the swelling of tendons in the carpal tunnel and keep pressure off the median nerve. Wearing a splint at night can be helpful because that’s when carpal tunnel symptoms are usually at their worst.
Talk to your supervisor.
If what you do at work is causing your symptoms, talk with your manager about making changes to your workspace. If you work at a computer, you can adjust your keyboard position so that your wrists aren’t bending when you type. Keeping your elbows to the side when you type also helps. If you work with tools, you can change tool handles or try a different way to get tasks done.
See an occupational therapist.
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, an occupational therapist can show you exercises that will strengthen your hand and wrist muscles. You can also learn how to alter your routines in ways that reduce stress on your hands and wrist.
Learn More About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at Baptist Health
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and want to learn more about its prevention and treatment, contact the Baptist Health Orthopedic team to set up an appointment.