Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Stretches
A friend of mine started getting a tingling sensation in the palm of his hands and fingers. Over time, it progressed to an itchy and numb feeling. After a couple hours at work, he would start to feel a dull ache in his forearms. The symptoms continued to get worse until he finally saw a doctor to find out what it was.
The doctor diagnosed him with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel is fairly easy to understand. There's a nerve called the median nerve that runs from your forearm, to your hand, through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. That nerve is surrounded by several tendons.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve. Swelling or anything that makes the carpal tunnel smaller can cause it.
On top of the symptoms my friend experienced, some people say their fingers or hands feel weak or swollen, even when no obvious swelling seems to appear. In extreme cases people may even lose the ability to tell the difference between hot and cold. Untreated it can affect the arm all the way up to the shoulder.
The most common way people find out about it is at night. Many people sleep with their wrists flexed, which can aggravate the problem. If you wake up at night feeling like you have to "shake out" your hands, or have any of the other symptoms I've mentioned, it's time to see a doctor.
There's one thing to remember. The median nerve handles your thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of your ring finger. It doesn't deal with your little finger. If the problem your having includes your little finger, it might not be carpal tunnel.
Many things can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, but the risks are three times higher in women than men, possibly because the carpal tunnel may be smaller in women. Your dominant hand is typically affected first. People with metabolic disorders like diabetes are also more susceptible.
The most common professions involved are ones that involve highly repetitive work. People who type all day, manufacturing jobs, assembly line workers, cleaners, seamstresses and meat packing jobs are all at higher risk.
The sooner you're diagnosed and begin treatment, the quicker you'll be able to recover.
Once you have a diagnosis, you have a few choices. Treatment of underlying causes like diabetes or arthritis is often begun first. You're typically advised to rest the affected hand or hands for a minimum of two weeks. Often a doctor will put a splint on to make sure your hands don't curl or twist up, especially at night when sleeping, to make the problem worse. If the area is inflamed, cold packs may be applied to reduce swelling.
The next step sometimes involves drugs to reduce swelling and ease the pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain relievers can give relief to symptoms. Occasionally doctors will prescribe diuretics to decrease swelling. Corticosteroids or lidocaine may be injected or prescribed to lower the pressure on the median nerve or provide relief.
Surgery is often recommended if the symptoms have lasted for 6 months or more. It's a very common surgery, typically done under local anesthesia and generally doesn't require an overnight hospital stay.
For those of you who want to avoid the problem, there are a few simple exercises that may prevent it from happening. BE VERY CAREFUL. If you've already been diagnosed with carpal tunnel, you MUST get your doctor to go over and approve any exercises first. Depending on the level or cause of inflammation, certain movements may hurt rather than help. Here are three ways to stretch the forearm.
1 Forearm Stretch (Fingers Up) - Stand tall and extend one arm in front of you, with your palm facing out and fingers pointing up. Use the opposite hand to lightly pull your fingertips toward your shoulder. Only stretch until you feel mild discomfort (not pain). Do not flex fingers back and forth, hold them steady for 10-30 seconds, repeating 2-4 times.
2 Forearm Stretch (Fingers Down) - Stand tall and extend one arm in front of you, with your palm facing out and fingers pointing down. Use the opposite hand to lightly pull your fingertips toward your waist. Only stretch until you feel mild discomfort (not pain). Do not flex fingers back and forth, hold them steady for 10-30 seconds, repeating 2-4 times.
3 Forearm Stretch (Palms Together) - Stand tall and put your palms together in front of you, just below your chin. Slowly lower your hands, keeping your palms together and hands close to your stomach. Stop when you feel a mild discomfort (not pain) or once your forearms are level, whichever comes first. Hold steady for 10 seconds, shake arms and wrists to loosen them and repeat 2-4 times.
For every exercise remember to breathe deep, keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
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