If you spend a lot of hours sewing, writing, trimming in the garden with hand clippers, or any number of other tasks that require repetitive motion, you’re probably familiar with the words “carpal tunnel syndrome” (CTS). Although it seems as if the condition appeared out of nowhere during the word processor-and-computer age, CTS has been around a long time — causing a lot of strife for a lot of people. Today, about 850,000 new cases of CTS occur every year.
CTS happens when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed or damaged. Your median nerve controls your thumb muscles. It is also responsible for sensation felt in your thumb, your palm, and the first three fingers of your hand. Picture the carpal tunnel where your wrist bends: the base of the “tunnel” has eight small bones in it — “carpal bones” — and the tunnel bridge has a ligament attached to it. To this tunnel travels the median nerve. When the median nerve is squeezed, pressed up against the ligament because of swelling amongst the joints at the wrist, you end up with the painful symptoms of CTS.
To get relief from CTS, try starting the day with some warm-up exercises. You can try these four simple exercises to relieve pain and swelling.
1. The Handshake. Grasp both hands together. Squeeze firmly and hold. Release. Repeat the cycle 10 times.
2. The Thumb Sweep. Make a fist with both hands. Allow the thumbs to extend. Rotate the thumbs in a circular motion. Stop and rotate in the other direction.
3. The Pull Back. Open the fingers of one hand and grasp in the palm of the other. Gently press the fingers back until the muscles of the hand are stretched. Release. Repeat.
4. Finger Curl. Make a fist with both hands. Hold for a few seconds. Release your fingers and stretch them upwards. Repeat the entire cycle ten times.
What do the results from clinical trials have to say about treating CTS? In a recent review of 22 clinical trials, researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, found strong evidence that electromagnetic field therapy, nocturnal splinting, and the use of ergonomic keyboards compared with a standard keyboard all benefitted CTS patients. So don’t forget to change that old keyboard if hours at the computer are causing your CTS symptoms.