Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common neuropathy condition, and yet it’s precise causes are unknown. Approximately 3% to 6% of adults in the general population have some form of carpal tunnel. Symptoms onset over a long period of time, and many patients find themselves wondering if there is something they could have done to prevent it, or can do to prevent the worsening of symptoms.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve, which runs through the carpal tunnel, is compressed or pinched . The median nerve is what provides sensation to the wrist and fingers. When swelling occurs, the inflammation impedes the gliding of the median nerve and symptoms such as numbness, tingling, burning and pain appear.
The key to treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is recognizing the signs early on. Early recognition and treatment is the best way to prevent surgery and permanent nerve damage.
Patients who develop carpal tunnel may experience stiffness, numbness, tingling and pain in the wrist and fingers. Researchers have been unable to pinpoint definitive causes of Carpal Tunnel meaning there are no sure ways to prevent it. However, there are steps patients can take in order to potentially slow the progression and prevent the need for surgery.
Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel
While there are no definitive causes of carpal tunnel, there are some genetic risk factors that may contribute to the likelihood you develop the condition:
- Women are more likely to develop CTS than men. This is because they tend to have smaller wrists, making it more likely to experience increased pressure on the median nerve.
- Hormonal changes, whether caused by pregnancy or menopause, can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel.
- Older people have an increased risk of carpal tunnel.
- Health Conditions
- Those with a chronic illness such as diabetes, hypothyroidism or arthritis are also at increased risk for carpal tunnel.
- Occupation & Hobbies
- Jobs that require the constant use of the hands and vibrating tools, such as construction, may contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.
What are the Warning Signs of Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel symptoms happen gradually, sometimes over a period of months. It typically begins with numbness, tingling, burning sensations and pain. Loss of sensitivity, difficulty gripping objects and weakness are other frequent signs in more advanced . It is not uncommon for the disease to affect both hands.
Once you notice the signs of carpal tunnel, you should seek a consultation with your physician. The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you can prevent permanent nerve damage. Most symptoms can be managed with treatment, but the longer you wait, the more likely it is that you will eventually need surgery.
How Can I Prevent Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal Tunnel syndrome cannot be prevented 100%, but there are steps you can take to help delay the onset of symptoms or slow down its progression if you have already been diagnosed.
While there is little research to prove causation, certain lifestyle changes are believed to help prevent carpal tunnel, or at least delay development:
- Quit smoking
- Smoking interferes with blood flow in the body, which can lead to inflammation
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Loosen your grip
- If you are using your hands for a long period of time, you may notice your grip tends to become tighter and more tense. Having too tight of a grip can contribute to more wrist compression.
- Take breaks
- In addition to loosening your grip, taking breaks will go a long way to preventing carpal tunnel.
- Use Ergonomic tools
- Ergonomic tools keep the hand and wrist in a neutral position, therefore reducing pressure on the median nerve.
- Wear a wrist splint
- Consult your physician before doing so, but wearing a wrist splint can provide extra support. You need to be sure that the splint is not too tight, as this may lead to increased pressure and actually cause nerve damage. It should be worn at night only for a maximum of 6 weeks.
Wrist Stretches & Exercices
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle includes proper exercise. What many don’t realize is that strengthening the hands and wrist are just as important as strengthening the rest of the body.
Stretches include the wrist flex and extend. This stretch should be held for 30 second and can be repeated throughout the day. The wrist shake may seem silly, but it is also another way to provide relief to the muscles.
If you are looking for more stretches or exercises you can perform, you should consult your doctor about seeing an occupational therapist. They will be able to tailor an exercise and stretch regiment specifically for your needs to address your issues.
Can You Prevent Carpel Tunnel? Final Thoughts
By taking steps to prevent carpal tunnel, you may be able to delay symptoms. More research is still needed to determine what specifically causes carpal tunnel. What is known though, is that without lifestyle changes and early recognition of symptoms, you may end up needing carpal tunnel surgery. Surgery is unable to reverse any damage that has already been caused, which is important to keep in mind.