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Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Pain and How to Deal with It

19 January 2022

Does the thumb side of your hand feel like it's going numb? Do you feel a weak, numb, and tingling sensation in your hand for no apparent reason? You might be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Fortunately, there are several methods you can try at home to ease your pain. This article will teach you how to deal with carpal tunnel pain.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Defining Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a prevalent condition that impacts your hands and wrists. It occurs when your median nerve gets pinched or compressed. The median nerve runs from your hand to your forearm through a narrow space called a "carpal tunnel." Along with the median nerve, nine tendons responsible for flexing your first three fingers and thumb also run through this tunnel. Anything that makes the carpal tunnel smaller or pinches the median nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are as follows:

Itching, tingling, burning, or numbing sensation in the palm, thumb, index, or middle fingers
Weakness; trouble holding things in hand
Shock-like feelings that move from the palm to the fingers
A tingling sensation that moves up your arm

You might notice that at night, your fingers fall asleep, i.e., become numb. This usually happens because of the way you position your hand while asleep. You might wake up in the morning with a numb or tingling sensation in your hands that runs all the way to your shoulder. As you go along with your day, your symptoms might flare up, especially when holding something with your wrist bent. Activities like reading a book or driving can flare up carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.

If your condition is new, shaking out your hands might help you feel better. However, it might not be enough to make the numbness go away after some time. Carpal tunnel syndrome can get worse as it progresses. You might experience poor grip strength caused by shrunken muscles in your hand. You might also experience greater pain and muscle cramping with time.

If you're suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, your median nerve might not be working the way it is intended to because of irritation or pressure around it. This can lead to:

Slower nerve impulses
Numb feeling in your fingers
Poor coordination and strength

How to Deal with Carpal Tunnel Pain

How to Deal with Carpal Tunnel Pain

Here are eight ways to deal with carpal tunnel pain:

Try Self-Care

One of the best things to relieve pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome is to ice your wrist or soak it in an ice bath. Try soaking it for 10 to 15 minutes, at least once every hour, to see a difference.

Gently shaking your wrist or hanging it over the side of your bed when you feel the pain that wakes you up at night can also help. Some experts suggest that putting your affected hand in warm water, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, flexing it gently, and extending your hand and wrist can also help. Try it doing this three to four times each day to see results.

Another way to relieve carpal tunnel pain is to rest your hands and wrists as much as you can. Give them a break from activities that can trigger your symptoms.

While the above-mentioned self-care methods can help, keep in mind that they are not a treatment option for carpal tunnel syndrome. These remedies only provide short-term pain relief.

Consider Painkillers and Topicals

Over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be beneficial in relieving pain. In addition, they can also reduce inflammation around the median nerve.

In a study conducted regarding carpal tunnel syndrome, researchers found that applying topical menthol in the form of creams and ointments can greatly reduce carpal tunnel pain during the workday. When using a topical treatment, follow the directions mentioned on the package or ask your doctor how much you should use.

If OTC medicines and topicals are not affecting your symptoms, please book an appointment with a physical or occupational therapist. They can teach you advanced exercises to relax your hands and relieve pain (more on this later).

Wear Wrist Braces

Wrist braces are effective for those who suffer mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. While they do not work for everyone, there is no harm in trying them since they have no side effects. Make sure you try them out for three to four weeks if you wish to see improvement in your symptoms.Most doctors suggest wearing wrist braces throughout the night. This is because most people bend their wrists while they sleep. This can worsen their symptoms. In addition to wearing a wrist brace at night, you can also wear it during the day, especially while doing activities that flare up your carpal tunnel pain.

Tweak Your Activities

Carpal tunnel syndrome usually flares up when you hold your hand and wrist in the same position for a long time. It can worsen if you keep your wrist bent either up or down. If your work makes it hard to keep your hands and wrists in a straight, neutral position, you might want to:

Take a break for 10 to 15 minutes every hour to stretch your hands.
Talk to your supervisor about changing your workstation setup or tools.
Try to use alternate hands for tasks.
Apply only as much force as you need. Avoid holding your gadgets/tools too tightly or pounding at your keyboard.
Maintain good posture. Avoid rolling your shoulders forward, as this can set off a chain reaction and make your wrist problem worse.

Make Ergonomic Changes

If your job entails sitting at your desk and typing all day long, you should make some ergonomic changes to your work environment. Some of these include:

Using FlexiSpot's Ergonomic Office Chair that allows you to adjust chair height
Changing the position of your keyboard from time to time
Changing your hand and wrist positions

These ergonomic changes will take the pressure off your median nerve and tendons, providing temporary relief.

Consider Using Steroids

Talk to your doctor about corticosteroids to relieve carpal tunnel pain. Corticosteroids such as cortisone are strong drugs that reduce swelling. You can take them as medicines in the form of pills. Your doctor might also suggest getting a cortisone shot in your wrist. This can provide temporary relief from pain and swelling, but it is not a long-term treatment option.

Opt for Physical and Occupational Therapy

As we mentioned earlier, if drugs do not seem to work, you should try occupational or physical therapy. An occupational or physical therapist can help you in several ways. They might suggest exercises for stretching and strengthening your hand and wrist muscles. Some therapists might also teach you ways of changing your routine motions to ease the stress on your hands and wrists. This can be especially helpful when your work or favorite pastimes involve a lot of hand and wrist movements.

Consider Surgery

If the remedies and treatments mentioned above haven't improved your condition in the past six months, you might need carpal tunnel release surgery. There are two main types of surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome: open surgery and endoscopic surgery.

A surgeon makes a two-inch long opening from your wrist to your palm in open surgery. In endoscopic surgery, they make two smaller openings and use a small camera to guide the operation. In both surgeries, the surgeon cuts the ligament on top of the carpal tunnel to release the pressure on the median nerve and relieve pains. After surgery, the ligament restores, but the nerve has greater room to pass through.

Both open and endoscopic surgeries have similar results. After surgery, in most cases, the carpal tunnel gets cured and does not come back. However, if you have a severe case, your symptoms may not completely disappear after surgery.

Relieve Carpal Tunnel Pain

Lifestyle Measures to Relieve Carpal Tunnel Pain

Still, wondering how to deal with carpal tunnel pain on your own? Here is a list of lifestyle measures that can provide some relief for mild to moderate carpal tunnel pain:

Avoid repetitive hand and wrist movements whenever possible.
Avoid activities that cause pain, discomfort, or numbness.
Take frequent breaks if your work involves repetitive hand movements.
Try to maintain a neutral wrist position. Do not extend it upwards or flex it down too much.
When lifting objects, use your largest joints, such as the shoulder, to avoid extra stress on your hands, wrists, and fingers.
Avoid using power tools that vibrate, like electric drills and floor sanders.
Make ergonomic changes to your workplace. 
Relax your grip and force level during activities that involve your wrists and hands.
Try not to sleep with your hands or wrists bent.

Final Words

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common nerve condition that is manageable with medications, therapy, remedies, and lifestyle changes. Now that you know how to deal with carpal tunnel pain, you can easily make some adjustments to lead a healthier life.