Tips for Relieving Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on June 17, 2015

Tips for Relieving Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Many people associate carpal tunnel syndrome
with using their computer too much,
but there are other causes.

From picking up a bag of groceries to typing on a keyboard, carpal tunnel syndrome can make any daily task a painful one. Thankfully, there are ways in which you can alleviate numbness and pain—or reduce it completely.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the wrist, becomes pinched at the wrist. The squished median nerve therefore causes you to feel pain, weakness and even numbness in your hands. Ouch.

“The most common cause is repetitive stress, particularly repetitive flexing of the wrist,” said Guy M. Nardella Jr., M.D., chief of plastic surgery at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Springfield Hospital and Taylor Hospital. Dr. Nardella specializes in hand surgery.

Many people today tend to associate carpal tunnel syndrome with using their computer the wrong way or too much, but there are other causes, such as activities or jobs that require you to repeat hand and wrist movements. Musicians and workers in the meat and fish packing industries are especially susceptible.

And there are other reasons why someone might develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Conditions such as diabetes, thyroid issues and rheumatoid arthritis commonly cause extra pressure on the nerve, whether it’s due to extra fat, vulnerability to swelling, or increased water retention. Age and gender can also increase one’s chances of developing carpal tunnel. Those 40 and older are at higher risk than youth; women are three times more likely to get it than men.

If you have a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome, you can alleviate symptoms during physical therapy sessions, or by trying some of these at-home remedies:

  • Take anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen.
  • Do basic stretches in your hand, wrist, arm and shoulder to alleviate the pain.
  • Ice your wrist for 10-15 minutes at a time once or twice an hour. Be sure to keep a paper towel or cloth between your skin and the ice.
  • Wear a wrist splint, especially during times when you can’t control your wrist movements, such as when you’re sleeping.
  • Learn new ways to do things if you can’t stop cold turkey. Keeping proper posture and using gym or work equipment that’s suited for your strength and ability are some tips.

But be aware, these simple treatments don’t work for everyone. “[For] 50 percent of patients, [carpal tunnel] really doesn’t go away unless you address it with surgery,” said Dr. Nardella.

In some cases, extreme swelling can even cause nerve damage, which will also need to be repaired through surgery—if possible. In some cases, “they’re injured irreversibly and can’t come back,” said Dr. Nardella.

According to Dr. Nardella, cutting the tendon and creating more room for the median nerve in the wrist and hand reduces the pressure that causes the pain. This surgery can be performed either traditionally through an incision in the hand, or endoscopically.

“The [surgeries] have a very high success rate,” he said.

So don’t fret— there is hope. You too can be pain-free!

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