While carpal tunnel syndrome may not be the end of the world, medically speaking, it can certainly be a nagging problem that can make your life more than a little uncomfortable.
Pain in your wrist and hand, numbness and tingling in your fingers, and even weakness in your hand can present challenges in your day-to-day activities.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone in this — when it comes to neuropathy, which is the general term for nerve damage, carpal tunnel syndrome accounts for 90% of the problem.
Outside of how common carpal tunnel syndrome is, the other point we want to make is that you’re not without solutions.
At Gill Neuroscience in Houston, Texas, Dr. Paul Gill is a board-certified neurologist who very much understands nerve entrapment disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and the best ways to treat, and prevent, this neuropathy.
Here, we focus on prevention.
Often, prevention techniques make more sense when you know what you’re up against, so we want to briefly describe carpal tunnel syndrome.
Your carpal tunnel is located on the underside of your wrist. The floor and sides are formed by small wrist bones called carpal bones, and the transverse carpal ligament provides the roof.
This space is only about an inch wide, yet it provides passage for nine flexor tendons and your median nerve, which is responsible for much of the sensation in your fingers (except your pinkie finger).
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there's inflammation inside this small tunnel that presses up against your median nerve. This can lead to symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in your wrist, hand, and fingers.
In order to prevent a problem, you need to know how it develops in the first place so you can address the contributing factors.
For carpal tunnel syndrome, there are risk factors that are outside your control to change and some that are.
For example, carpal tunnel syndrome is far more prevalent in women. The overall prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome is about 50 per 1,000 people, but it's 10 times more prevalent in women than in men. This disparity is thought to be due to smaller carpal tunnels in women and due to hormones.
While there’s not much you can do about your gender, there are other factors that you can control, such as reducing repetitive stresses on your wrists. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused by overusing your wrists and performing repetitive movements.
Another risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome is having diabetes, so managing this condition is imperative.
Outside of mitigating your risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome, there are other steps you can take to prevent nerve entrapment.
For starters, if you use your wrists a good deal, give them a break and stretch them out regularly. Shaking your hands out is a good step, as are nerve-gliding exercises. Simply hold your arm out and place your hand in a “stop” position. Next, gently pull your hand back toward your arm and then under.
Another effective prevention technique is wearing a brace on your wrist that keeps it straight. You should wear a brace during the day and at night when you sleep. When you’re not wearing a brace, be mindful of not allowing your wrist to be cocked at an angle for long periods — keeping it straight encourages more space in your carpal tunnel.
If carpal tunnel syndrome still plagues you despite your best efforts, we recommend that you come see us so that we can explore some treatment options.