Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a disorder that can cause numbing and disabling pain in your hands and wrists. CTS arises when a nerve that runs through a narrow channel of ligaments and wrist bones is squeezed by fluid or inflamed tissue in the carpal tunnel.
This painful condition often results from repeated use of the wrists in strenuous sports or in the workplace, particularly when using a computer keyboard for extended periods of time. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is also common in women when pregnancy or menopause cause fluid buildup in the tissues. Diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and hypothyroidism may cause the disorder.
Signs and Symptoms
- numbness and tingling in the thumb and first three fingers; fifth finger and outside of fourth are not affected
- shooting pains through the hand, wrist and sometimes forearm
- pain that may be worse at night, interfering with sleep
- weakness in the hands and fingers (in severe cases)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be treated effectively if it is caught early. Left untreated, it can cause permanent nerve damage.
What You Can Do
- Rest the hand and wrist when possible.
- If you have trouble sleeping, wear a wrist splint at night to reduce pressure on the nerve; splints are available at many drugstores.
- At work, wear a splint if it relieves your pain.
- Take anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, to reduce pain and swelling.
- To ease discomfort, apply a cold pack at 10-minute intervals for one-hour; a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a washcloth works well, too.
- To prevent CTS: Change your hand position often when working, and take breaks. Also make sure your hands are in line with you forearms as you work.
If pain and other symptoms persist or get worse despite a month of self-care, call your doctor for advice or make an appointment.