As trusted chiropractors and physical therapists in Marietta, we see many patients each year suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. We may be known for being your car accident doctors that you call when you’ve been in an accident, but whether or not it’s due to an accident or due to a degenerative disease, we understand that this pain in your arm, hand, and wrist is disruptive to your life. We can help you identify that carpal tunnel feeling and why carpal tunnel might be more painful at night. We’ll run you through the symptoms, causes, risk factors, and prevention for carpal tunnel.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a painful condition in which the median nerve of the hand and arm becomes compressed. The carpal tunnel is a narrow band that runs through the side of the hand and up the arm.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel
While there are things that can cause a more sudden onset of symptoms, for the most part carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms begin slowly and progress over time. The main symptoms that people describe when it comes to what carpal tunnel feels like include tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hand or arm.
Tingling and numbness typically start in your fingers or your hand. This will often present itself in your thumb or index finger, but not your pinky finger. For some, the feeling of carpal tunnel will not be so painful, but like some small electric shocks. These sensations often continue from your hand, through your wrist, and up your arm. While they can wake you from your sleep or occur when you’re sitting still, it’s more likely you’ll notice these little shocks while holding something- maybe the steering wheel of the car, your phone, a cup of coffee.
Because of the numbness or shocking sensations running through your hands, you may experience some weakness in your hands. This weakness can be due in part to the tingling sensation, but it can also be because the median nerve in the hand can affect the strength of the hand, particularly in the thumb’s pinching abilities.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As we mentioned, carpal tunnel syndrome is named after the carpal tunnel, which is a passageway that runs from your hand up your arm. The median nerve runs through this passageway and, when compressed, can cause the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
There’s no one root cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, but it’s likely the combination of several underlying factors, which we’ll discuss more in-depth below. Carpal tunnel is caused by anything that irritates the median nerve of the wrist. In some cases, trauma such as a break or sprain from a sports injury or car accident can contribute to additional, ongoing issues like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Risk Factors of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
While there’s not just one cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, the pain or discomfort you feel may be a direct result of the irritation or damage to the median nerve that the following conditions or circumstances cause.
- Bone formation – Bone formation or deformation due to fractures, dislocation, or arthritis cause the small bones in your wrist to interact with the carpal tunnel differently than they’re supposed to. This can put pressure on the median nerve. Additionally, some people have genetically smaller carpal tunnels and may be prone to carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Gender – Carpal tunnel syndrome is more often found in women. This may be due to their naturally smaller wrists and naturally smaller carpal tunnels.
- Nerve-Damaging Conditions – Diabetes and other conditions that cause nerve damage may contribute to the feelings of carpal tunnel.
- Inflammatory Conditions – Arthritis and other inflammatory conditions can cause the lining of tendons in your arm, wrist, and hand to swell. This can lead to pressure on the median nerve, which causes symptoms.
- Changes in Body Fluid – Women who are pregnant retain more fluid, which can irritate the median nerve. This is a common side effect of pregnancy and usually goes away after pregnancy.
- Workplace Conditions – Repetitive work or actions like manufacturing or prolonged repetitive motions involving the wrist can increase the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome. Some studies suggest that constant computer work like typing or using a mouse can contribute to carpal tunnel, but these findings are inconsistent.
Prevention of Carpal Tunnel
Because there is no one cause and no particular cure for carpal tunnel syndrome, there is not a proven, definitive strategy for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. But, in addition to routine chiropractic care and physical therapy, there are a few tips and techniques you can practice in order to minimize your symptoms.
- Relax Your Grip – It may sound silly, but loosening your grip when doing things like writing or when working on a computer can have a big impact. Practice relaxing your shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers until your fingers are gently typing on the keys. If you have to grip something as part of your daily job, work on relaxing your grip as well. The more rigid you are while you perform tasks involving your wrist and hands, the more you could aggravate the median nerve.
- Give Yourself a Break- Short, frequent breaks in which you stretch or shake out your hands can make a big difference. Alternate tasks you perform, if possible, so you’re not spending so much time repeatedly doing the same task, putting stress on your median nerve.
- Improve Your Posture – Chiropractors and physical therapists can help reinforce good posture. Bad posture forces your shoulders forward, which causes compression in the neck. This can trickle down to the arms, wrists, and hands, causing carpal tunnel symptoms to flare.
Carpal Tunnel Treatment at AICA Marietta
Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the median nerve of your wrists. It can cause minor pain and numbness in the hands, wrist, and arm. While symptoms are typically mild, without any treatment, permanent nerve damage can occur. It’s best to see a doctor if your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are interfering with your daily life or getting worse.