Looking out for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


What is Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a medical condition, where the median nerve becomes trapped and compressed at the wrist.

The nerve itself originates from the brachial plexus, a bundle of networking nerves, located above the clavicle region on each side of the neck.  It’s the only nerve that travels through the carpal tunnel, hence the danger of it being pressed.

People who suffer from CTS will feel the pain systematically to where its present, but over time shooting towards its origin as the syndrome onsets and becomes worse. Therefore, pain in the arm will start travelling upward towards the cervical region.

 

Early Signs And Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel

The systematic pain around the wrist will mostly affect the muscular functions closest to the compressed nerve. The first complaint will be numbness and a sharp painful tingling sensation in the thumb, before feeling the same symptoms in the index and middle finger.

There may be a further loss in motor function. Grip strength can be weakened due to the weakened receptors in the hand. You may feel restricted from grabbing something with force. A common indicator of CTS is experiencing extreme pain in the wrist while sleeping, which can often wake you up.  

 

CAUSES   

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Diabetes

Carpal Tunnel syndrome is diagnosed in 27% of Diabetes patients in North America today.  The effects of high blood pressure and increase in weight is said to play a role in making the canal for the carpal tunnel more narrow, adding extra compression to the median nerve.

 

Pregnancy

The build up of fluid (edema) in the limbs during pregnancy, causes swelling and applies pressure to the wrist.

 

Hypothyroidism

Thyroid Dysfunction causes fluid to be retained in the connective tissues in the body. The tissue overlying the wrist is affected by this swelling also.

 

Work Related

Many office and manual workers are diagnosed on a daily basis due to excessive motion or hyperextension that chronically wears down and compress the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. Hyperextension could be a result of poor wrist position when using a mouse, keyboard or typewriter. 

 

Self Harm

As seen above, the causes of weight and high blood pressure play a major impact in CTS.  Addictive habits such as smoking, drinking and eating can contribute significantly in causing carpal tunnel syndrome.

 

What you can do?

 

Improve your work setting

Make sure that you’re keyboard and chair are aligned properly for good posture and not hyperextending the wrist at all times. Keep your chair higher if possible and keyboard less inclines.

 

Keep healthy weight and blood pressure

Avoiding binge eating, smoking, drinking and other excessive habits.

This can help reduce the compression of the root canal over time, keeping BP reduced and avoiding the risk of diabetes that contributes to CTS.

 

Take breaks and practice good posture

Stress will also cause the compression to accelerate in the carpal tunnel. Take breaks, relax the shoulders more and practice good posture. This will also keep the brachial plexus functional and healthy from where it originates to the wrist.

 

Practice Your Grip

When holding items, try to use your hand opposed to just your fingers. This is important as a lot of the muscles supporting your wrist can become frail and weak.

Use your palm to grip to avoid imbalances.

 

Weight Training And Exercise

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will develop in the wrist, and its primary symptoms offsetting from where the problem is localized. However, training the muscles from the upper traps/ cervical region to the hands will ensure that the muscles will stay strong, loosed and well balanced, helping the nerves travel well from the brachial plexus. This way the median nerve can operate healthy from its origin to the wrist.  Cardiovascular exercise will keep your weight down also and be beneficial for avoiding CTS.

 

Don’t Promote A Thyroid Condition

·      Reduce Smoking

·      Increase Selenium Levels In Your Diet

·      Don’t overuse fluorides (Toothpaste, Mouthwash, Antiseptic)

·      Don’t over consume Soy products


Ben Walker is a Your House Fitness personal trainer based in Toronto, ON. To view his profile click on his name.