Ways to Manage Carpal Tunnel Pain
On average, 74% of American adults use a computer at work and 89% of American households have a computer. The repetitive motion of typing on a keyboard – coupled with the pervasiveness of technology – can put you at risk of overuse and strain.
Pain, numbness and tingling in the thumb and first three fingers are classic symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
But it’s not just typing on a keyboard that can put you at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are some common causes to be aware of, and how to address the symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when a nerve that runs from your forearm to your hand is compressed or pinched. The carpal tunnel in your body is the narrow space where the nerve is. When the tunnel becomes smaller, the nerve is affected.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is common and affects 3% to 6% of Americans. Here are some risk factors:
- Repetitive hand movements, especially if your hands are lower than your wrists
- Medical conditions including diabetes, hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis
- Pregnancy can also cause some women to carpal tunnel syndrome in the third trimester; most of the symptoms resolve themselves after the woman delivers her child
Treatment options at home
After you first have symptoms of carpal tunnel, try to adjust your behavior at home to see if you’re able to find relief:
- Put your hand in an ice bath for 10 minutes once or twice an hour
- Wear a wrist splint to keep your hand and wrist in line, especially overnight
- Put your hand in warm water and gently move your hand and wrist three to four times a day
- Make sure your workstation is ergonomic and can support your wrists and hands in a safe position to minimize future pinching
- Consider the activities that make your symptoms worse and find ways to modify them
- Take rest breaks
- Reduce activities
When to see the doctor
After one to two weeks of carpal tunnel symptoms, talk to your health care provider about your pain and what your next steps should be. Different treatment options are available to treat long-term symptoms, from injections to surgery.
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