Affecting roughly 3% of all U.S. workers, carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common medical condition. It's characterized by nerve compression in the wrist, specifically as the carpal tunnel area of the wrists. When the median nerve is compressed in your wrist, you may telltale symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome like numbness, pain and tingling in your fingers. To learn more about carpal syndrome, as well as preventative measures to lower your risk, keep reading.
Overview of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome involves compression of a main nerve, known as the median nerve, in one or both wrists. The median nerve runs through the wrists where it spiders off into many smaller nerves at the fingers. Over time, however, the median nerve may become compressed. The pinched or compressed nerve will then manifest in the form of carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
As previously mentioned, carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of nerve compression. With that said, there are several things that can cause the median nerve to become compressed.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is classified as a repetitive strain injury (RSI). And like all RSIs, it's often caused by performing repetitive motions. Workers who type frequently, such as receptionists and accountants, are typically more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than workers who rarely or never type or otherwise use their hands.
Inflammation may play a role in carpal tunnel syndrome as well. If you suffer from chronic bodily inflammation, your wrists may swell to the point where it compresses your median nerve. Inflammation, of course, can affect your health in other ways, so it's important to keep it under control.
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, you should consider using ice -- or any cold compress -- to alleviate the swelling and discomfort. Some people assume a hot compress is better because it promotes blood flow. If you apply heat to your wrists, though, you may inadvertently cause additional swelling, which can worsen carpal tunnel syndrome. By using ice, you'll reduce swelling and, therefore, suppress the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Wrist braces and splints may also be used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. If you move your hand in a way that compresses your median nerve, wearing a brace or splint may prove useful. With a brace or splint, your wrist will have a limited range of motion.