4 things you should know about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

What is CTS?

CTS stands for carpal tunnel syndrome, which refers to a combination of symptoms not hard to identify, linked to nerve compression in the hand. Our hands and wrists are composed of different tiny bones, tendons and nerves. The particular combination of bones in the wrist gives form to what is called as the carpal tunnel. Sometimes, if the tendons which pass through it, get inflamed, they will press the median nerve, a nerve which allows us to sense through our palm and fingers, and cause pain and other CTS symptoms.

What are the most common symptoms?

The most common symptoms are:

  • Numbness usually up to the three fingers of the hand
  • Tingling
  • Weakness in the use of the hand especially of the thumb
  • Pain in the hand and wrist

All can be accompanied by swelling or change in colour of the skin!

Who is most likely to develop CTS?

According to recent studies, CTS is more likely to be developed by women. In fact, they are three times more likely to develop it compared to men! Usually who are affected are people older in age, which work in high strain jobs or repetitive movements, and or do hand-intensive activities after work. An example of hand-intensive activity can be gardening.

Some people might have a genetic predisposition. An example is people who are born with a smaller carpal tunnel which might cause CTS to develop. Injuries such a sprained or fractured wrist can be a cause of CTS. Simply because a trauma can pressure the median nerve.

Another cause can be linked to hormonal changes which can occur during pregnancy or menopause. These changes cause the enlargement of the wrist structure and of the pressure of the nerves. Other conditions in which origin an enlargement of the wrist structure are also obesity, diabetes or hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis.

How to prevent CTS?

Besides the fact that several studies showed that women are more likely to have CTS, especially after 45, men should also watch out for it. Prevention is the key!

The first place where prevention starts is at work: for those people who work on a computer every day, a way to prevent CTS would be to comfortably position the wrists in a neutral position while using the mouse and the keyboard. Many tools and wristbands such as UPPO allow this and help in preventing CTS.

Take breaks is also important, especially when working in a very repetitive job that involves the use of the hands. Avoiding repetitive movements lowers the risk of CTS and when not possible, doing exercise helps in alleviating the damage caused by those movements.

How to cure CTS?

Wrist supports help in supporting the neutral position of the wrist so that the nerve and tendons are relaxed, and CTS will not degenerate. When possible, rest is very helpful but unfortunately not always possible, so in this case short-term
medication and anti-inflammatory drugs help momentarily the pain.

When CTS is very severe, surgery is the best suggestion. It is done with a local anaesthetic and allows the person to return home the same day of the surgery.

Sources: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/carpal-tunnel-syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosis, Benjamin M. Sucher, Adam L. Schreiber (2014)