Have you ever felt a tingling or numbness in your fingers? Do you ever experience sharp, shooting pain through your wrist, palm and forearm? Does the pain intensify when you move your hand, and tend to get worse during the night?
You may have carpal tunnel syndrome. It often happens to people who make repetitive movements (like typing, carpentry, assembly line work, or needlework) made while the wrist is bent. It tends to afflict women more frequently, but can also be genetically inherited or worsened by pregnancy, and chronic conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid disease.
Here are some ways to prevent or treat carpal tunnel syndrome before the condition becomes so severe that it requires surgery.
1. Stretch your muscles.
Every so often, take a break from work to do this simple exercise.
Extend your arms and stretch both wrists and fingers (the same position you would take if you were pushing a wall). Hold for five counts.
Then, relax your wrists, with your hand hanging loosely. Hold for five counts.
Next, curl your hand into a tight fist. Feel that stretch from your fingers to your shoulders. Hold for five counts.
Relax your wrists again. And (you guessed it) hold for five counts.
Repeat all steps 10 times, then end your routine by shaking your arms like a floppy puppet.
2. Rest those muscles.
If you’ve been at the computer all day, don’t aggravate the fatigue by surfing when you get home (or needle-pointing, for that matter). Pick a recreational activity that doesn’t strain the arms or the hands. Television works (unless you compulsively change channels every three seconds).
Exercise stretches your body, and boosts circulation—both of which can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. However, avoid any sports that strain the hands and wrists, like golf or badminton. Many people say that yoga is particularly effective. (Must be all that flexing.) If you don’t like yoga, consider a dance class. Same amount of stretching, funkier music.
4. Wear gloves.
Studies show that cold environments tend to worsen carpal tunnel syndrome. If your office has the thermostat of the North Pole, wear gloves and a thick, long-sleeved sweater or jacket.
5. Watch your posture.
Slouching over a keyboard or desk can hurt your neck and shoulders, further intensifying pain an complicating injuries in the hands and wrists. Also try to keep your forearms level with the keyboard, so your wrists don’t hang in one position for long periods of time.
6. Get a splint.
This is particularly effective if the pain has already become disruptive. It prevents any additional pressure on the affected nerves.
7. Get a massage.
Massage therapy relieve the pain and reduce the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute recently released discovered that computer operators who went through regular massage sessions with trained therapists suffered less pain and even regained some of their grip strength.
8. Apply a cold compress.
Pressing an ice bag on your hand and wrist at the end of the day (when carpal tunnel pain usually intensifies) can temporarily lessen the pain and swelling.
9. Consider acupuncture.
If massage therapy doesn’t work for you, another non-surgical resort is acupuncture. Acupuncture—one of the oldest forms of Oriental medicine—believes that carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a block in the flow of blood and Qi (or life energy). Usually, acupuncture practitioners will prescribe a combination of acupuncture paints, stretching exercises, herbal remedies. They will also adopt a holistic approach to the condition, treating any other disorders that may have contributed to its development (like arthritis and diabetes).
10. Talk to your doctor.
For moderate to severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, doctors may recommend pain medication and surgery. However, don’t wait until your case worsens before having an appointment. Even if you choose to pursue homeopathic remedies first, it’s good to get medical tests and secure an “official diagnosis.” Visit your doctor periodically to monitor how your condition has progressed over time.