How To Tell If You Have Carpal Tunnel?
Are you worried that you might be suffering from carpal tunnel?
The condition causes tingling and numbness a well as a variety of other symptoms in the hand and arms. This is triggered by a nerve being compressed in the carpal tunnel which is a narrow pathway near the palm side of the wrist.
The prevalence of the condition varies between 3.8 and 16% of the population. While it does occur mainly in females and usually involves both hands, males may also be impacted and it is possible that only one hand is affected.
The mean age of onset of symptoms is between 40 and 60 years however depending on certain variables it can present itself at any point in your life.
There are a variety of risk factors that contribute to the development of this condition. These include:
- Jobs with repetitive wrist flexion
- Use of tobacco
As such, you may be more likely to develop carpal tunnel if you spend a significant amount of your working day typing at a computer. You may also find that your diet and the substances you consume impact your chances of developing this condition. Indeed, studies suggest that an improved diet and reduced weight may help patients reduce the chances of developing CTS.
Carpal tunnel will occur when the median nerve within this area becomes compressed. This causes the symptoms previously mentioned including paresthesia in both the hand and the wrist.
It is also possible that the condition causes a weakness in the hand and more difficulty using the hand to grasp objects. It may impact your ability to work and perform basic daily tasks without experiencing severe discomfort.
Your doctor will diagnose this condition by checking whether you are suffering from the symptoms mentioned. After this, they will perform a physical exam and check for other potential causes of the pain. Once this has been completed nerve conduction studies will offer evidence for the final diagnosis of carpal tunnel.
Best Braces For Carpal Tunnel
If you are suffering from carpal tunnel, it is important to understand what will make your symptoms worse.
Pain and other symptoms from the carpal tunnel will increase based on the extension and flexion of the wrist. This puts more pressure on the area and aggravates your existing symptoms. That’s why it’s worth exploring the best braces for carpal tunnel.
Using braces for carpal tunnel, you can keep the wrist in a strictly neutral position. This means that the pressure inside the carpal tunnel will be reduced and that results in you experiencing fewer symptoms. It helps you relieve pain, numbness and difficulty with the functioning of your hand.
There are actually two types of braces that you can consider when exploring different solutions.
A wrist control splint ensures that the wrist is immobilized and remains in a strictly neutral position. This brace contains a curved metal or plastic strip which fits against your lower arm and the palm of your hand.
The MANU hand brace is an alternative. Here, the wrist is still kept in a neutral position but the device also ensures a unique finger separation. This helps guarantee more pressure is taken off the median nerve within the carpal tunnel.
The main difference here is that that device is mainly located over the hand and fingers rather than the lower arm and wrist. It is also difficult to type while wearing this type of device as only two fingers and the thumb are free to use.
Studies have shown that these hand & wrist braces are effective at reducing symptoms of carpal tunnel. However, this is only the case if they are used in the right way. Research shows they have the most impact when patients wear them through the night or throughout a total of 12 weeks. Wearing the devices provides both functional and symptomatic benefits for patients who are suffering from CTS.
One final option would be carpal tunnel gloves. It is worth noting that there is very little research to suggest that these carpal tunnel gloves provide benefits to patients suffering from this condition. However, if they work effectively it could be due to the fact that they are able to reduce the vibrations that increase the symptoms of CTS.
Using the gloves it is also possible to overstimulate the nerves within the hands. When this occurs, the brain then pays less attention to the symptoms of carpal tunnel. So, while physically the symptoms are still present, the you fell less of an impact.
Despite little research to provide support for the use of these devices, many reviews are positive.
Best Mouse & Keyboard For Carpal Tunnel
Studies do show that certain variables increase the chances of a patient suffering from CTS. For instance, using a mouse and keyboard regularly could cause a slight yet significant risk.
It is important to note that CTS is not the same as RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) which is far more common for individuals completing this type of work on a regular basis. However, for those suffering from CTS, it is still worth exploring the best mouse & keyboard for carpal tunnel available to purchase.
When you are typing or clicking on a mouse, your wrist posture can cause pressure within the carpal tunnel. The lowest level of pressure will be present at a neutral typing position where the wrists do not flex or extend to any angles. Basically, it is important to keep the wrist straight.
For this reason, you should use a fixed split keyboard and a vertical mouse.
The fixed split keyboard is notable due to the curved design and the additional level of support at the front of the device. Essentially the traditional line of keys is split down the middle providing the right spacing between the two hands.
A vertical mouse is completely different from the typical mouse you may use. It is designed to be held vertically like a joystick rather than resting your fingers on top of it. The curve in design provides a comfortable grasp for long term use.
Using these devices it is possible to reduce the discomfort in your hands and any pain associated with the condition. Wrist extension is significantly reduced as well as ulnar deviation and pronation compared to the typical keyboard and mouse that you might consider purchasing on the market.
While investing in the right tech is a good start, there are other steps you can take.
You can modify your work environment by decreasing the slope of the keyboard to provide a flat base to work with. This will ensure that your wrists are not angled upwards while typing.
Additionally, finding a keyboard with a low level of thickness will help here too. It is also possible that you will find relief by using a support device for your wrist. These are often soft, foam pads that offer additional support.
Alternatively, you can work to ensure that the height of the keyboard does match the height of the chair. Remember, the aim is always to make sure that the wrist, hand and lower arm are all inline.
Try Acupuncture To Relieve Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
There are a variety of different treatments for carpal tunnel symptoms. This includes orals steroids and the wrist bracing options mentioned above. It is interesting to note that acupuncture has been shown to be just as effective at treating CTS as these two possibilities. Using acupuncture it is possible to reduce the symptoms and improve the functionality of the wrist and hand.
One study into the impact of carpal tunnel tested eighty people. Over sixteen treatments for a period of eight weeks, all three tested groups reported some form of relief as well as physiological changes. According to the study, the acupuncture treatment altered the mapping of the brain and also showed evidence of healing effects.
Acupuncture has even been shown to have long term benefits for patients with CTS.
The study mentioned conducted a follow up after three months. They found that patients who received the acupuncture treatment experienced less tingling, numbness and pain as well as improved level of functionality.
This may be linked to the remapping of the brain present in these patients. Experts are keen to point out that acupuncture is not a cure. However, it could provide the long term relief that patients often seek. There is also some debate as to whether this treatment will be as effective for those suffering from severe forms of CTS.
How does acupuncture work?
Well, the therapy is able to reduce pain because it releases endorphins. These act as a natural form of pain relief and are the same chemical released when you over-exercise or cut yourself.
The treatment also helps to reduce the level of proteins that cause the pain individuals experience while further reducing the sensitivity of the nerve receptors.
So, as well as treating the cause and the symptoms of the condition, the pain becomes far less overwhelming for individual patients.
It is important to be aware that acupuncture will be more effective when you commit to this form of treatment. Treatment should be applied for two or three days a week for at least four weeks. In total, you should complete more than ten sessions over a relatively short amount of time to see the desired results.
Best Essential Oils For Carpal Tunnel
There are also essential oils for carpal tunnel. Essential oils provide chemicals which help reduce or treat the symptom of a variety of different conditions.
In most cases, these oils can be applied directly to the wrist, every morning and evening. It is recommended that they are diluted with a carrier oil as some are quite strong. The main essential oils for carpal tunnel are considered to be:
- Flax Seed
Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils for a range of different health issues, both external and internal. It is considered to be a mild-acting oil and does not need to be diluted with a carrier oil.
For carpal tunnel, this oil works as both an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It can reduce pain as well as inflammation.
In 2017, one study tested the impact of this oil on 48 patients. Research showed that the patients who were provided with the oil experienced improvements in their condition. The oil has also demonstrated nociceptive, sedative and analgesic properties.
Flax Seed has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory and presents nociceptive properties. One study in 2014 investigated the impact of this oil on patients suffering from CTS.
A double-blind research investigation tested 100 patients, all with mild to moderate symptoms. A well as being provided with the flaxseed oil to use daily on the upper hands, patients were provided with wrist splints. Patients were rated on the level of a number, tingling and other symptoms related to CTS both before and after completion of the study.
Within just four weeks, patients who used the flaxseed oil rather than the placebo showed significant improvements. Patients noted that they experienced less tingling, lower levels of pain and increases in functionality. Studies have also found the oil to have analgesic properties as well.
Chamomile tea has been used for centuries due to its perceived healing powers. Properties of the oil include working an antioxidant, analgesic, nociceptive and anti-inflammatory.
As such, it should provide a significant level of support for those suffering from CTS. The oil has also been shown to reduce swelling and is well known for cytotoxic properties from the high level of apigenin present.
One recent study explored the impact of oil on 86 patients. The study showed evidence that function and symptoms such as tingling were greatly reduced after just a four week period.
Carpal Tunnel occurs when the median nerve is compressed at the wrist. Many treatment options are available besides surgery.
Key treatment principles are to avoid activities that put your wrist in extreme positions and try bracing, ergonomic modifications, acupuncture, and essential oils to help reduce your symptoms and promote healing.