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How to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome

Anywhere from 4 to 10 million Americans suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome every year, affecting their ability to work efficiently and even complete daily tasks. Virginia Jones, M.D., a hand and orthopaedic surgeon at Piedmont, says it is among the top conditions she treats each year.

Dr. Jones explains that there is an actual tunnel on the palm side of the hand that carries the median nerve and tendons to the fingertips. Compression of the median nerve cuts off its blood flow, decreasing its ability to function. Over time, this can lead to permanent nerve and muscle damage if left untreated.

“In the beginning, many experience occasional mild numbness and tingling, and many do not seek medical help,” says Dr. Jones. “However, when a patient comes to see me early on, we usually see great results with the use of a wrist brace and self-awareness about avoiding prolonged repetitious movements with the same hand.”

Dr. Jones says it is not always easy to pinpoint the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome and many have early signs long before they seek treatment.

Early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome

Knowing the early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome can help you catch the condition in its most treatable stage. Symptoms include:

  • Numbness in the thumb, index and/or middle finger
  • Pain that wakes you up in the night
  • The sensation that your hand is going to sleep while driving, using a phone or blow drying hair

Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome

Reduce your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome by:

  • Taking frequent breaks
  • Repositioning your hands regularly while working on a computer
  • Changing your pattern of hand use (set your smartphone on a table when typing rather than holding it, for example)

Treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome              

If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome, see your doctor. He or she may recommend a wrist brace for mild cases. In more severe circumstances, surgery may be necessary to correct the issue.

Your physician will also want to rule out other conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis and other nerve problems.

“The key to a quick recovery from carpal tunnel syndrome is treatment upon the onset of symptoms,” says Dr. Jones. “The longer you put off seeing a doctor, the more potential for nerve damage, which leads to a longer recovery and a higher probability of needing surgery.”

For more information on bone, muscle and joint health, click here.

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