Do you often experience a tingling sensation and feel like there are some pins and needles in your hand, particularly in the thumb, pointer, and middle finger areas? Well, these symptoms, in addition to occasional swelling and numbness, may be an indication that you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Of course, do not take every little pain in your hand as a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome as it could just be an ordinary injury. However, as Dr. Scott Burg – a renowned rheumatologist – says, carpal tunnel pain is quite distinct as it affects a specific nerve called the carpal tunnel. This is basically the passageway that connects your hand to your wrist. When this nerve gets overly inflamed or compressed, carpal tunnel syndrome is triggered.
When Does Carpal Tunnel Pain Occur?
The above-mentioned symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome commonly occur at night but some, like the tingling sensation and numbness, can occur during the day as well. The more you experience these symptoms, the weaker your hand muscles become, and with time, you will have a pretty weak grip.
If you note several of the said symptoms occurring at once, you may want to consult your doctor. The only way you can know for sure if you have carpal tunnel syndrome is through a clinical diagnosis.
Getting The Right Diagnosis
There are 4 common tests used to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:
Physical Exam – Depending on how advanced your case is, the doctor may conduct a visual and physical exam on your hand to check for signs of muscle damage. People with advanced carpal tunnel syndrome often have noticeable muscle loss at the base of their thumbs.
Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction – This involves sending a small electric pulse through your hand to test how fast and efficiently your nerves transmit electrical signals. Apart from accurately diagnosing CPS, EMG tests can also detect all sorts of budding nerve problems and muscle dysfunctions. It is the ideal choice if you are concerned about your overall health.
Tinel’s Sign – Here, the doctor will firmly tap on the underside of your wrist to gauge your reaction. People with CPS generally report that the taps feel like an electric shock.
Phalen’s Sign – The doctor will request you to clasp your hands together in the traditional praying position, and then signal you to let them drop forward naturally. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, the drop of the hands will trigger the symptoms.
Apart from the tests, the doctor will also want to know your overall health status – in particular, whether you are pregnant or have ever suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, an overactive thyroid, or have relatives who have the condition.
How to Deal With Incessant Carpal Tunnel Pain
There are two effective ways of controlling your carpal tunnel pain. These include:
Wearing Splints – For many patients, the pain usually comes at night and gets more pronounced when in bed. According to Dr. Burg, the nighttime symptoms are caused by the subconscious lack of control over the wrist as you try to sleep. To mitigate this, he suggests wearing a wrist splint on the affected hand through the night to keep the wrist straight and subsequently prevents undue pressure on the carpal nerve.
Dr. Burg also recommends wearing the splint at your day job, especially if it involves repetitive tasks like typing on a computer keyboard to further reduce potentially inflammatory pressure. And since it’s your daily job involved, you may also want to consult an occupational therapist (OT) for more practical advice on ways to improve your workstation and sustainable ways to prevent too much pressure on your wrists as you work.
Seek Medical Assistance – If your home treatment doesn’t work, it could be a sign that your CPS is very advanced and only medical therapy could help you. Some doctors prescribe cortisone injections. But as much as they work well when taken in moderation, they may actually be harmful to the hand tissue when used for extended periods.
In the worst-case scenario, your doctor may recommend hand surgery to repair the affected nerves. Fortunately, these surgeries are quite minor, have very high rates of success and full recovery takes a paltry 6 weeks on average.