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Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the hands, fingers, and wrists. It is characterized by pain, numbness, and tingling due to pressure being placed on the median nerve located in the wrist. This nerve, along with several important tendons, go from the forearm to the wrist. In so doing, they pass through a small portion of the wrist which is called the carpal tunnel – thus the name carpal tunnel syndrome. The median nerve is responsible for controlling both the movement and the feeling in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger. Only the pinkie finger is exempt.
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Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As briefly mentioned, the main cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is the exertion of pressure on the median nerve. Such pressure can itself be caused by a number of different things, most notably swelling. In truth, anything which makes the carpal tunnel itself become smaller can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes are some of the most common causes, along with pregnancy, obesity, repetitive hand movements, injuries to the wrists, bone spurs, and smoking due to the fact that the flow of blood to the median nerve is reduced.
On the subject of repetitive hand motions, people who perform the same task over and over, such as those who work with computers, are particularly susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome.
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Prevention of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There are several ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from either occurring or recurring. Exercising the hands, arms, and the muscles in the fingers is extremely important, as keeping those muscles strong is essential in preventing this problem. Any carpal tunnel syndrome explanation should include information about how to do these exercises properly to prevent injuries and promote healing.
Any activity which causes numbness or pain in the fingers, hands, or wrists should be avoided. Switching hands during repetitive movements can also prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, as can reducing one's intake of salt and even wearing a splint on the wrist(s).
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Treatments of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome varies, depending on whether it is mild or severe. For mild carpal tunnel syndrome, restriction of activities which cause pain or numbness, icing the wrists once or twice an hour, taking over the counter anti inflammatory medications, wearing wrist splints, and doing hand exercises will suffice. In the event of severe carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery is often recommended.
Sometimes, medication will suffice. If, however, someone who has carpal tunnel syndrome is unable to do his or her work, or whose symptoms do not improve after several months of the aforementioned treatment options, then surgery may become necessary.
Carpal tunnel surgery consists of cutting the ligament which is located at the top of the carpal tunnel itself. Doing so creates more room, thus relieving the amount of pressure placed on the median nerve. Before the operation, a surgeon will give a carpal tunnel syndrome explanation and discuss how the surgery will correct the problem. Be sure to ask how long it will take to recover and what activities should be avoided immediately after the procedure.
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