Do you have carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) has a nasty habit of creeping up on you very slowly.
It often takes people by surprise and can not only be very frustrating, but in some cases, quite devastating.
But what is it?
Is it the same as Repetitive Stress Injury? And what should you do if you suspect you have it?
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Caused?
It is caused by the compression of the median nerve. The median nerve is partially responsible for controlling the sensations and movement in your hands.
The median nerve and several tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel (hence the name!)
The compression of the nerve comes from a cumulative effect of seemingly insignificant stresses that accumulate over time. At some point, often very suddenly, they cause intense nerve reactions.
Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome the same as Repetitive Stress Injury?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an injury that can result from Repetitive Stress Injuries(RSI). Loosely speaking, RSI is the cause of the problem and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the effect.
The first signs that you have it when you get tingling, and sometimes numbness, in the hands and fingers. Sometimes it comes on more quickly and you start to feel pain straight away.
At other times it will manifest as dull ache in your forearm or hand, or an unpleasant feeling of pins and needles.
What should you do if you feel Carpal Tunnel Syndrome coming on?
The first advice is don’t ignore it. Don’t treat it as just an inconvenience. Even if the symptoms feel relatively mild, you must be aware that it can escalate very quickly. The sooner you start remedying it the better.
Stop the activities that are exacerbating it. Typically this will be either excessive typing or use of your worktop mouse. It is possible to use your non-dominant hand to control your mouse – it’s tricky at first – but you will get used to it sooner than you think. This will give your dominant hand a much needed rest.
As always, ice the inflamed area. If the symptoms are quite strong, consider icing your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes 1 or 2 times an hour. Also consider taking anti-inflammatories to relieve the pain and swelling.
Think about wearing a splint for your wrist at night. This may help to take pressure off your median nerve.
And of course, seek further medical advice if necessary.
Can massage help?
Yes of course. Massage helps by promoting circulation, relieving inflammation, helping to remove metabolic residues, and soothing the irritated muscles and tendons. It may not offer a complete cure, but it can be instrumental in the recovery process.
In addition to massage you should learn some basic stretches and also be sure to learn some relevant strengthening exercises.
…. And once your recovery is under way be sure to understand good posture and the correct techniques for using a mouse and keyboard, to prevent any further damage in the future.