Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common cause of finger numbness, tingling and hand pain. You may feel aching, burning, numbness, or tingling in your palm, wrist, thumb or fingers. The thumb muscle can become weak, making it difficult to grasp things. Pain may extend up to your elbow.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when an important nerve (called the median nerve) gets compressed at the wrist. This can occur if you:

  • Do repetitive movements with your wrist including using a vibrating tool.
  • Are pregnant, menopausal or overweight.
  • Have diabetes, premenstrual syndrome, an underactive thyroid, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment

Carpal tunnel syndrome may be treated with:

  • Brace or splint
  • Oral medications
  • Cortisone injection
  • Surgery

For carpal tunnel syndrome, you may need to make adjustments to your work habits and environment:

  • Make sure that your keyboard is low enough that your wrists aren't bending upwards while you type.
  • Take plenty of breaks from activities that aggravate the pain. When typing, stop often to rest the hands, if only for a moment. Rest your hands on their sides, not the wrists.
  • An occupational therapist can show you ways to ease pain and swelling and stop the syndrome from coming back.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can relieve pain and swelling.
  • Various mousepads, typing pads, split keyboards, and wrist splints (braces) are designed to relieve wrist pain. Some people find these devices help their symptoms. You may wish to try a few different kinds to see if any help.
  • You may only need to wear a wrist splint at night while you sleep. This helps to keep your wrists in a neutral position and avoid compression of the nerve. If that alone is not working, wear the splints during the day as tolerated.
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