Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is such a pain (literally and metaphorically) and was so severe after the birth of my first child, Oliver, I had to have 10 intensive sessions with an osteopath who wasn’t even sure he could help. Luckily, he did manage to get my circulation going again and I didn’t need surgery thankfully but I still suffer from the symptoms sporadically and most usually around PMT time.
It’s far from the pins and needles I suffered post C-Section but it’s still alarming as it wakes me up at night.
Below my good pal Dr Juliet McGrattan shares what exactly carpal tunnel syndrome is and how it can be treated.
Over to Juliet:
So what exactly is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal bones are the small bones at the junction between your wrist and your hand. There’s a narrow tunnel between these bones, through which the tendons to your fingers run. A nerve called the median nerve also runs through this tunnel. The median nerve supplies sensation to your thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of your ring finger – mostly on the palm side of your hand.
As the tunnel is already narrow it’s easy to understand why it doesn’t take much for the nerve to get squashed. When it does, it can give pain, numbness and pins and needles in the area the nerve supplies. This is most often felt at night, especially initially, when you might wake up and feel as if you just want to hang your hand over the edge of the bed for relief. The pain may also extend up your forearm too. Over time, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can lead to weakness in the hand making it hard to grip and hold on to things (think dropped cup of tea and difficulty tying shoe laces).
Swelling of the tissues in the tunnel will narrow it and compress the nerve. CTS is generally common but there are certain conditions that make it more likely. You are at higher risk if you are overweight, female and over fifty, pregnant, have diabetes or an underactive thyroid.
CTS is also common during pregnancy due to weight gain and fluid retention- something that can also happen pre-menstrually too.
Joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or previous fractures of the wrist also increase your chances of suffering from it. Repetitive tasks and movements may trigger it.
Spending lots of hours typing on your computer may be a contributing factor but there’s conflicting evidence from studies (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/196717) with some saying that computer work doesn’t increase risk.
Is there any treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome?
Many cases of CTS will settle on their own, particularly if there is an underlying cause that resolves, for example having an underactive thyroid treated or giving birth! It can take up to a year to resolve. If you think a repetitive movement is your trigger, then it’s worth trying to reduce or avoid it to see if it helps.
Whilst CTS is causing pain, anti-inflammatory pain killers can be helpful to ease discomfort. Wrist splints might be suggested by your doctor to minimise the movement at the wrist, these can be worn at night too. Whether or not steroid injections will help is debatable, studies are conflicting but this is something you can discuss with your doctor.
There’s a simple surgical procedure called a carpal tunnel release which involves freeing up the nerve, usually with a local rather than general anaesthetic. This usually cures the problem but your hand will be out of action for a few weeks afterwards so do bear this in mind; not an easy situation for a busy mum!
Thank’s Juliet! I’m finding it increasingly frustrating and while easing off typing is in impossible in my blogging job, I wonder if a series of further sessions with an osteopath might be the answer. Having my hands out of action would also prove tough-going in my career. Hoping things improve!!!
There’s more advice on common health conditions in Dr Juliet’s must-read book Sorted-The Active Woman’s Guide to Health and on Juliet’s blog too so check them out: