Caring For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
You’re Not Alone
Facing a medical condition can be an alienating experience; as much as friends or family may be there for you, they might not have a complete understanding of what you’re going through. What’s often underappreciated is the extent to which health issues can influence all aspects of your life. When you’re suffering, it’s tough to be as present and vibrant as you want or used to be. It’s hard to stop and smell the roses when it hurts to do so.
Characterized by weakness, pain, numbness, or tingling in the wrists and hands, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is not the easiest condition to live with. In extreme cases, it disrupts sleep and makes work difficult, sometimes impossible. Since the proportion of people who suffer from CTS is far from negligible—up to 3.8% of the general population, according to recent estimates—it’s important to understand the risk factors for this condition. The more you know about CTS, the better you’ll be able to manage it.
But before we get to these factors, let’s take a quick look at what causes the condition itself. CTS starts with your “median nerve.” The median nerve runs from your forearm through the wrist. It’s this nerve that allows sensations on the palm side of the thumb and fingers, while also enabling motor function and muscle control. The passageway that the median nerve uses through the wrist is the carpal tunnel. The disorder of carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed. The compression crowds the area, causing irritation.
In some cases, CTS results from injury to the area. A fractured wrist might narrow the tunnel and irritate the nerve. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) may also contribute to the condition because of the swelling and inflammation that are symptoms of RA.
The tricky thing, though, is that doctors are often unable to localize a singular cause of CTS—often it’s due to multiple risk factors—which makes the importance of awareness of certain movements you may be performing that could often be associated with CTS.
Grasping the Risks
So what are the risk factors for CTS? What set of conditions represent an increased likelihood of developing the condition? Here’s a quick breakdown of what we know:
- Gender: Even though CTS occurs in both sexes, women between the ages of 40 and 60 are at the highest risk. Studies indicate that pregnant women near the end of their term can develop short-term CTS. The rates further escalate for those taking birth control, undergoing menopause, or taking estrogen.
- Repetitive Motions: Those who perform certain repetitive motion have higher rates of CTS. This is especially true if the motion requires awkward positioning of the hands. That said, scientists have had trouble demonstrating direct links here, so the precise relationship is yet to be determined.
- Inflammatory Conditions: As with RA mentioned above, CTS often accompanies inflammatory conditions. Other conditions such as swelling associated with obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and hypothyroidism are all other conditions at risk of the condition.
- Smoking: Smoking is another health risk associated with CTS. Smoking constricts respiration and blood flow. Smokers, thus, have poorer circulation, which can influence the amount of blood and nutrition moving towards the wrists.
- Injury: CTS associated with injury can result from the improper healing of bones or cartilage in the wrist. This can shrink the carpal tunnel or alter the position of the median nerve.
However, there are a number of effective treatment approaches for those living with CTS.
A Helping Hand
While easy to take for granted when nothing’s wrong, disorders causing pain in the wrists and hands can be incredibly debilitating. If you’re feeling aches, numbness, or tingling, therefore, it’s essential you seek out medical attention as soon as you can. Fortunately, there are a number of treatments available. However, you need to be the first to reach out that hand for medical assistance.
If you’d like to learn more about the signs, symptoms and solutions to CTS, the care coordinators at Onward Orthopedics are ready to help. These experts help connect patients with dedicated medical experts versed in the most cutting-edge technologies and approaches. They’re an invaluable resource throughout the course of treatment. Give them a call at 800.577.1693 today.
- Aroori, Somaiah and Roy AJ Spence. ‘Carpal Tunnel Syndrome’. Ulster Medical Journal 77, no. 1 (January 1, 2008). Accessed November 18, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2397020/.
- Mayo Clinic. ‘Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes’. April 2, 2014. Accessed November 18, 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/basics/causes/con-20030332.