When we constantly use the same hand movements over and over, especially if the wrist is bent down with our hands lower than our wrists or we make the same wrist movements over and over again, we could be at risk of this syndrome.
There is a passageway in our wrists through which the nerves and the flexor muscles of our hands pass. This is called the carpal tunnel but if something goes wrong, we can get a rather painful carpal tunnel syndrome and often the culprit can be the repetitive movements we make all day long when working on our computers whether at work or at home.
Carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS is a painful and tingling sensation felt in the hand because of the pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This median nerve controls movement and feeling in your thumb and your first three fingers. It does not control your little finger. The pressure is caused by swelling or anything else that might make the carpal tunnel smaller and therefore less effective.
What are the symptoms?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in the fingers or hand. Some people may have pain in their arm between their hand and their elbow. Symptoms most often occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger.
But our use of computers is not the only culprit
Other causes can be
- Chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and hypothyroidism.
- Wrist injuries and/or bone spurs.
- Smoking because it can reduce the blood flow to the median nerve.
- Other repetitive motions (apart from using a computer) that flex and extend the tendons in the hands and wrist such as working on an assembly line or in carpentry are also common causes.
- A frequent trigger of mild CTS symptoms is when people sleep in the fetal position, flexing their wrist and curling up with the back of the hand under the chin, putting considerable stress on the median nerve.
- CTS is common in people over age 50 because they are more likely to suffer from health conditions such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Any reason for hormonal changes such as the menopause can make the nerve more vulnerable to irritation.
How to alleviate the pain and discomfort symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
You may first notice symptoms at night and be able to get relief by shaking your hand but there are lots of natural ways to treat the syndrome without resorting to drugs and their possible side effects.
1. Stop or, at the very least, cut down those activities that cause numbness or pain, while resting your wrist as much as possible.
2. Put a small ice pack on your wrist for a few minutes at a time as often as possible. Wear a wrist splint at night to keep your wrist in a neutral position to take the pressure off your median nerve. This means the wrist should be either straight or only slightly bent as if you were holding a glass or a cup.
3. Make some general lifestyle changes so that you can be as healthy as possible. This might mean losing weight, giving up smoking, exercising regularly and eating a whole food healthy diet.
4. When you hold objects, use your whole hand and not just your fingers. Also be aware that when you type, you should keep your wrists straight, with your hands a little higher than your wrists. Always relax your shoulders when your arms are at your sides. Switch hands often when you repeat movements.
5. Acupuncture can be very helpful for some people with this condition because this form of natural treatment releases any blockages and improves the flow of energy along meridians while releasing natural pain-relieving chemicals into the body, promoting circulation in the body and balancing the nervous system. Laser acupuncture, which uses a handheld laser instead of acupuncture needles, is also used for carpal tunnel syndrome.
6. Acupressure is based on the same principles as acupuncture but with pressure being applied to various points instead of needles, stimulating blood flow to the wrists and hands and easing numbness and swelling in the area.
7. In several research studies, vitamin B6 deficiency has been associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Along with supplementation, vitamin B6 can be found in such food sources as sweet potatoes, avocados, brown rice, sunflower seeds, chick peas, salmon, pork, chicken, turkey, potatoes, bok choy, barley, bananas and mangoes. A typical supplement dose of vitamin B6 for carpal tunnel syndrome is 50 mg 2 to 3 times a day. You might notice increased urination and it can take up to 6 weeks for improvement.
8. Enzyme supplements such as bromelain may help to reduce tissue swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome with results taking a few weeks. The main food source of bromelain is pineapple.
9. Yoga is another natural method to help reduce symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, improving grip strength while reducing pain.
10. Chiropractic care may well help to reduce symptoms and improve function. Such care includes the manipulation of the soft tissues and body joints of the arms and spine.
When symptoms are serious and you find that you are not able to fasten buttons, put on earrings or even touch the thumb to the little finger, this could be an indication that the nerve is degenerating and you would be wise to seek expert medical advice.