We use our hands steadily on a daily basis, to accomplish various tasks from preparing meals, to brushing our teeth, to using our phones and computers. Maintaining strength, dexterity, and flexibility in our hands is crucial in order to carry out everyday tasks. If you or your loved is experiencing discomfort or fragility in your hands, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) may be the cause. Here is some general information about the symptoms, treatments, and causes of CTS.
What is CTS?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed due to increased pressure. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the underside of the wrist containing bones and ligaments. When these ligaments become swollen, it puts undue pressure on the median nerve causing CTS.
The symptoms of CTS usually start out fairly light, and increasingly become worse and more pronounced over time. Here are some of the symptoms:
- A feeling of numbness in the fingers
- Pain in the wrist, palm, fingers, thumb, and forearm
- A burning or tingling sensation in the hand and forearm
- Pain shooting up the arm to the elbow
- General hand weakness
CTS is often confused with arthritis due to the similarity of the symptoms. However, there are some differences to help distinguish between the two. The median nerve does not provide any information to the pinky finger, or half of the ring finger. So, if you are experiencing pain in all fingers, including the pinky, it is likely not caused by CTS. Another difference, is the physical effect on the hand. CTS is usually characterized by a numbness or tingling sensation. Arthritis customarily comes with a swelling of the affected area.
While it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of CTS, it is most commonly the result of repetitive movements like handling a computer mouse or writing. Computer usage is at an all time high, with most homes having a personal computer. The majority of seniors are now using computers on a regular basis, increasing the cases of carpal tunnel syndrome in the elferly. CTS is more likely to occur in women, people with diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis.
It is crucial to get CTS identified and diagnosed as soon as possible to avoid intensifying the symptoms. Getting checked out by your doctor or a healthcare professional is the first step in treating CTS. Once properly diagnosed, a treatment plan can be implemented. Depending on the severity of the disease, a splint may be needed in order to keep the wrist straight. The splint can be especially beneficial when sleeping, to force the wrist to remain straight. This helps avoid unnecessary pressure on the median nerve. It is also suggested to try to avoid repetitive movements, such as spending too much time on the computer. Adjusting the angle at which you type can also help reduce the stress on the median nerve.
Our caregivers at Retire-At-Home Toronto can help ease the burden of these treatments, and prevent aggravating the syndrome further. We can help with such tasks as preparing meals, opening jars, and anything else that places undue stress on the hand and wrist. We can also suggest and assist with strengthening exercises to reduce pain and increase the muscles in the affected area.
If the symptoms are not improving with treatment, surgery may be the only option to alleviate the pain. In this case, our caregivers can be a huge help in the recovery process after surgery.