You may be sleeping at night or maybe working at your keyboard and suddenly an arrow of fire shoots through your fingers, blazes through your wrists, and travels up your arm, ending in your elbow. Your fingers tingle at the impact and then the wrist and the fingers become numb. Has this happened to you ever? Do your fingers, specially the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger tingle and occasionally go numb and you feel youre losing your firm grip? If these symptoms match with what you might be experiencing now and then, theres a distinct possibility that youre suffering from a condition known in medical terminology as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome .
Before we launch into the remedies available, lets inform ourselves a bit about where exactly this tunnel is located and why this syndrome causes so much discomfort. But even before we take the first step we must know that numbness of the fingers and the wrist is the most important sign of this syndrome.
Now coming back to where we were, the carpal tunnel is a circular passage in the wrist through which the median nerve and tendons which control the flexing of the fingers and the palms pass. If for some reason the median nerve gets compressed, discomfort starts. Any bending of the wrists causes the aperture in the carpal tunnel to get smaller and some pressure is exerted on the median nerve. The reason for such a compression can also be as simple as sleeping with bent wrists! Occasionally it happens to all of us, but if the symptoms persist, a visit to the doctor is necessary.
Generally its believed that this problem is the result of repetitive and forceful use of the lower arm and wrists and is generally found among manual workers. Also those who work for long hours in postures which are not ergonomically correct may put additional pressure on their shoulders and upper limbs, and these may add up to causing pain in the lower arm or numbness of the wrists.
What should you do to prevent this syndrome from attacking you? Well, the common sense answer is take frequent breaks from work which involves repetitive use of fingers and wrists such as pounding away for hours at the computer keyboard. These days certain programs such as Workrave and Xwrists are available which prompt the users to take a break and rest their wrists!
The other available means of treatment include use of braces which immobilize the wrists. However, doctors these days prefer physiotherapy over braces and in many cases, a physiotherapist is able to help treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome .
For temporary relief, steroid injections can also be administered in the wrists, but if the pain refuses to go away and becomes progressively more and more unbearable, medication and surgery are the only options left. Use of anti-inflammatory injections such as cortisone is popular among doctors.
The surgical option basically cuts the transverse carpal ligament into two parts. This ligament is a very large one stretching right from the base of the thumb to the base of the little finger. This also forms the roof of the carpal tunnel. So, when the orthopaedic surgeon cuts it into two, it is no longer able to exert pressure on the median nerve and the patient gets permanent relief.
If the pain persists or gets more acute after you have scrupulously followed the above steps, then it is time to meet your doctor who will surely try to bail you out of your difficulties.