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Strategies for carpal tunnel relief

As someone who works with my hands, I’ve become intimately familiar with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), a condition that can be debilitating. Here’s a brief overview of CTS, its causes, and practical tips to help relieve symptoms.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs through a narrow passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, becomes compressed. This can result in:

  • Pain and tingling in the hand
  • Muscle weakness in the thumb and fingers
  • Severe cases can lead to muscle atrophy

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is bordered by carpal bones on three sides and a broad ligament on the fourth. It houses the median nerve and eight tendons. Inflammation of any of these components can increase pressure within the tunnel, leading to a vicious cycle of pain and swelling. Additionally, neck and shoulder tension can contribute to CTS, especially when the head is held forward, affecting the nerve roots in the lower cervical spine.

Typical Treatments

  • Anti-inflammatory medications: These can provide limited relief due to the tendons’ low vascularization.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be performed to lengthen the ligament and increase the carpal tunnel’s volume.
  • Chiropractic Care

    Chiropractors can assess and treat CTS by focusing on neck and shoulder alignment, which helps alleviate the tension pattern extending into the arms. Treatments might include adjustments and regenerative medicine to address osteoarthritis and inflammation.

    Tips to Relieve Symptoms

    Hand and Wrist Positioning

    • Minimize time with hands pronated; instead, supinate your movements.
    • Minimize time spent with hands in a palm-down position, as this compresses the carpal tunnel. For instance, move your hands down from the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions on the steering wheel when driving. When you’re resting your hands, do so palms up. If you have to work with your hands palms down, whenever you’re on breaks, put your hands in the thumbs-up position.
    • Avoid contracting the palm by keeping the thumb and little finger apart.
    • Let shoulders and breathing remain relaxed during tasks.

    Movement and Rest

    • Keep your hands moving with frequent small variations in position to reduce strain.
    • Rest hands palm-up when not in use to open the space between the ulna and radius, reducing compression.
    • Vary your tasks throughout the day to avoid repetitive activities.
    • Avoid working with elbows bent at an angle less than 90 degrees to prevent nerve and blood vessel compression.
    • Keep wrists in a near-neutral position most of the time.

    Keyboard and Mouse Usage

    • Use keyboards that rise towards the middle or split keyboards.
    • Avoid resting the base of your hands on surfaces when typing. Treat your keyboard like a typewriter, which may require lowering the keyboard or raising your seat.
    • Use multiple mouse styles and change them every hour to minimize repetitive strain.
    • Make frequent, small adjustments in hand angles when using the keyboard.

    Exercise and Stretches

    • Regular exercise can improve cardiovascular health, enhancing blood circulation to the hands.
    • Engage in leisure activities that don’t involve heavy hand use.
    • Practice specific stretches such as locust pose, neck and arm stretches, and forearm muscle lengthening exercises (I like this one: fold your fingers over your thumbs and circle your wrists).

    By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can help alleviate the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and prevent further aggravation. Regular adjustments to your hand positioning, work habits, and relaxation techniques can make a significant difference in managing this condition.

    Locust Pose for Carpal Tunnel Relief

    1. Lie face down on your mat with your legs extended and arms resting alongside your body, palms facing down.
    2. Engage your core and press your pelvis into the mat.
    3. Lift your chest, arms, and legs off the ground simultaneously. Keep your neck in a neutral position, looking slightly forward or down.
    4. Extend through your fingers and toes to create a sense of length in your body.
    5. Hold the pose for 15-30 seconds, breathing deeply and maintaining the lift in your chest and legs.
    6. Slowly lower back to the mat and relax.

    This pose helps to open the chest and stretch the front of the body, reducing tension in the neck and shoulders, which can contribute to carpal tunnel symptoms. By strengthening the muscles of the back and improving posture, the locust pose can indirectly relieve pressure on the wrists and hands. Additionally, the supination of the hands can help relieve carpal tunnel symptoms.

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