You've noticed a slight tingling in your wrists at work. On some days, your hands feel slightly numb. You may be dealing with a condition called carpal-tunnel syndrome. Right now, it is just an annoyance. But if allowed to progress, it could become so severe that you lose all feeling in your hands and be unable to pick up and hold on to anything. Here is what is going on in your wrists and hands and how it can be treated before it becomes a major health issue.
Nerve Irritation Starts the Problem
A large nerve, called the median nerve, runs along your forearm from the elbow through the wrist and into the hands. It passes through the complicated set of bones in the wrists using a channel called the carpal tunnel. If the nerve is irritated in this area, it becomes inflamed and painful. Some of the typical causes of irritation include:
- repetitive motion of the wrists during specific activities at work
- resting the wrists against a hard surface, such as a desk, when typing on a keyboard
- degenerative processes, such as osteoarthritis, which deform the bones in the carpal-tunnel area
If the irritation continues, the nerve begins to lose feeling in the wrists and hands. It also becomes more painful. Soon, the hands become weak, and you'll find it difficult to do simple things, such as turn a door knob or hold a coffee cup. Before the condition gets this bad, visit an orthopedic doctor for an evaluation and treatment recommendations.
Treating Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome
The doctor will determine the cause of the irritation and the extent of any nerve damage. If the problem is work related, noninvasive treatment will likely correct it. You'll also learn how to prevent a recurrence of it in the future. Some of the typical treatment options include:
- wearing wrist splints or wraps to hold the wrists in a neutral position while the irritated nerve heals.
- physical therapy on the wrists and hands to better support them while working.
- anti-inflammatory pain medications to reduce the swelling in the wrists.
If the problem is due to a deformity of the bones in the wrists because of a disease, you'll discuss surgical options with a surgery specialist. They will need to reconstruct the carpal tunnel to allow the median nerve to run through it freely.
Prevention of Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome
Once the condition is under control, your doctor will help you create a plan to prevent its recurrence. Some of the proactive steps you can take against the condition include:
- warming up the hands and wrists before doing physical activities with them.
- taking frequent breaks during work to exercise the muscles in the wrists.
- adjusting your workspace so the wrists aren't pressing against something which puts pressure on the nerve.
Talk to a healthcare provider such as Town Center Orthopaedic Associates for more information or to set up an appointment.