Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Affects Sleep and Daily Activities

Your carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of bones and ligaments in the wrist that protects the median nerve, a main nerve in your hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tunnel narrows and crowds the median nerve.

This occurs as a result of repetitive hand motions, certain diseases, wrist injury or obesity. Women who experience fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause are also at risk. Excess pressure placed on the nerve causes pain, numbness or weakness in the hand.

You may find it difficult to carry on with daily activities because of pain or get a full night of sleep because pain worsens at night. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, seeking treatment early is important to prevent lasting nerve damage. Early treatment may also help you avoid surgery.

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What's my risk?

Work at a Computer? It Could Be Worsening the Condition

If you work a desk job, whether at home or in an office setting, your hands may be at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. Poor workspace setups put excessive stress on your wrists and hands. Here’s how to set up a successful workspace to avoid trauma or injury:

  • Keyboard: Wrists should stay in a neutral position while typing. Do not angle your keyboard or prop it up on the keyboard legs. This can place your wrists in an awkward, bended position.
  • Desk: To keep your elbows and wrists in a neutral position, your desk should be 27 to 29 inches off floor (in most cases). For higher desks, try adjusting your chair height or adding a cushion to your seat.
  • Desk pads: Add light padding to protect wrists from resting too long on a hard surface. Wrist rests can also help with discomfort, but make sure they are flexible enough to allow your hand to stay in a neutral position.
  • Timer: A desktop timer can remind you to take small breaks from repetitive typing or hand motions. Try setting a timer for a 10-minute break every hour.
  • Space heater: Warm muscles are less likely to get injured. If your office space stays chilly, a mini desk heater can be an inexpensive option to keep your hands warm.

Office workers aren’t the only professionals who develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Any job that requires repetitive hand movements can put you at increased risk. Some examples include carpenters, musicians, mechanics and assembly line workers. Certain hobbies may also hurt your hands, including gardening, needlework and canoeing. Taking consistent breaks from repeated movements and switching between hands can protect your wrists.

Prevention and Relieving Pain

How to Relieve Pain

Your physician will suggest nonsurgical treatments to alleviate pain. Some options include:

  • Following a hand exercise routine. Your physician may suggest specific exercises and stretches to help reduce pressure on the median nerve.
  • Getting steroid injections. Your physician can inject corticosteroid into the carpal tunnel to temporarily reduce pain.
  • Taking medication. Anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Wearing a splint or brace. To reduce pressure, your physician may suggest wearing a brace or splint.

Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be prevented. Take proactive steps now to save you from pain in the future. Here’s what to do:

  • Avoid activities that cause you to bend or twist your hands for long periods of time.
  • Find treatment for inflammatory diseases that cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Keep your grip relaxed.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Use tools that fit your hand size.