Are you waking 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 should know about 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 your wrist. It’s an important area in your hand where the median nerve and tendons pass. This area is very confined and is prone to injury when tendons passing through it become inflamed. This inflammation causes increased pressure on the median nerve and compresses it, causing 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 strength and may begin dropping things more frequently. This nerve compression is referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome.
How do I manage the symptoms?
Symptoms like pain, burning, numbness or tingling in the hands often flare up with carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition can often be managed by conservative means. A wrist brace can be used while you sleep in order keep the wrist straight and decrease the pressure on your nerve. Your physician can prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication. You can also perform exercises to strengthen and stretch your forearm. If you do not notice an improvement in your symptoms within 3-4 weeks, seek medical attention to avoid permanent nerve and muscle damage.
Here are three easy exercises to perform once a day.
- Median Nerve Gliding
- With elbow extended and head straight, make a flat palm to the ceiling.
- Hold five seconds, then tip your head toward your hand and bend your wrist and hand down.
- Hold five seconds.
- Repeat 20 times.
- Forearm Stretching – in four parts
- With your elbow straight, make a fist and hold 5 seconds.
- Then make a “c” with your hand and hold for five seconds.
- Next turn your flat palm up to the ceiling and hold five seconds.
- Finally from the palm up position, grab your hand and stretch it down.
- Hold for five seconds.
- Do these in order three times.
- Hand and Forearm Strengthening
- Find a rubber band and place it around your thumb and fingers.
- Make a puppet hand.
- Now extend your fingers like you are making a claw.
- Continue to go from the puppet to claw positions until you feel fatigued.
April Hibbeler has been an Occupational Therapist for OrthoCarolina since 2001 and currently sees patients in the Huntersville office, specializing in hand therapy. She received her bachelor’s degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Biology and her master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Occupational Science. She also enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and playing tennis.