Do you wake up at night with pain, burning, numbness or tingling in your hands?
Do you have numbness and tingling in your fingertips intermittently or constantly?
Have your hands become weaker recently? Are you dropping things?
If so, you may be suffering from a common condition called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is located at the base of the palm and the beginning of the wrist. It’s an important area in your hand where the median nerve and tendons pass.
When the tendons that pass through this confined area become inflamed, the inflammation increases pressure on the median nerve and compresses it. This nerve compression is referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome and causes pain, numbness and tingling.
Patients typically notice their symptoms at night and often awake to pain, burning, numbness and tingling in their hand. If left untreated, patients may experience a decrease in hand strength and may begin dropping things more frequently.
How do I manage the symptoms?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can often be managed by conservative means. To manage pain at night, try wearing a wrist brace while you sleep. The brace will hold your wrist straight and decrease pressure on your median nerve. Anti-inflammatories can also help reduce pain at night.
Strengthening and stretching your forearms are also effective steps to manage carpal tunnel syndrome. Simple exercises like the ones below can not only minimize pain but also help prevent your symptoms from coming back.
If you do not notice an improvement in your symptoms within three to four weeks, contact an OrthoCarolina hand specialist to schedule an appointment. Left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent nerve and muscle damage.
Daily exercises to manage carpal tunnel syndrome
Median Nerve Gliding
- With your elbow extended and head held straight, make a flat palm to the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Then tip your head toward your hand and bend your wrist and hand down. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 20 times.
Forearm Stretching – in four parts
- With your elbow straight, make a fist. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Then make a “C” with your hand. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Next, turn your flat palm up to the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds.
- From the palm-up position, grab your hand and stretch it down. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat these moves in order 3 times.
Hand & Forearm Strengthening
- Place a rubber band around your thumb and fingers. Make a puppet hand by closing your fingers to your thumb.
- Then extend your fingers like you are making a claw.
- Move from the puppet to claw positions until you feel fatigued.
April Hibbeler, OT, is an occupational therapist specializing in hand therapy with OrthoCarolina Moorseville Physical & Hand Therapy.
This article was originally published on December 12, 2014, and has been updated on August 26, 2020.