Numbness in the Hands & Fingers - Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

carpal tunnel syndrome

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Do you have that itching numbness, tingling pain, and weakness in the palm of your hand and fingers, especially between the thumb and index finger? Then you may be suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). This is one of the most common conditions which affects the nerves of the hand.

I have been having this problem for almost a year now and I thought it was due to arthritic pain. Holding a pen to write is awkward and your handwriting isn't as 'nice' as before. Then I came across an article on CTS.

Causes of Numbness in Hands and Fingers

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed. This may happen because it is swollen, or the tendons are inflamed, or both. These will be aggravated with repetitive movements.

It also affects people in certain professions which require long-term repetitive motion of the wrist such as using vibrating hand tools etc. In my case, I suspect the constant use of the car's automatic gear shift button, which needs extra pressure for it to work, as the reason for aggravating the nerves.

Carpal Tunnel and Carpal Bones

carpal bones
Carpal Bones. Photo Source: Wikipedia


There are eight small bones in our wrist called Carpal Bones. Between the ligament which lies across the front of the wrist, and the carpal bones is a space called the Carpal Tunnel. 

The tendons connecting the forearm muscles to the fingers pass through the carpal tunnel. A main nerve to the hand (median nerve) also goes through this tunnel before dividing into smaller branches in the palm. 

Anything that decreases the amount of space in carpal tunnel, increases the amount of tissue in the tunnel. This increases the sensitivity of the median nerve which can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. 

Pressure on the median nerve can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand and wrist. This can eventually travel up into the arm.

Will  You Be at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

CTS is frequently diagnosed for both men and women between the ages of 30 and 60. But women are three times more likely to develop CTS. If you think that it stop at 60, you are wrong.  CTS is also common for those in their late 70s.

If you suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis, there's a high risk that you will get CTS.


How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

CTS is not a life-threatening condition but it can have a negative impact on your overall quality of life if left untreated. So prevention is better than cure. The following suggestions will help reduced chances of developing CTS:

  • In your workplace, take frequent rest breaks
  • When on the keyboard, correctly position your hands and wrists. 
  • Arrange your activity and workplace in a way that minimizes any discomfort. 
  • Avoid overexertion. Unnecessary flexing and repeatedly extending your wrists should be avoided.
  • Do not grip objects too hard. Relax your grip or reduce the force you are using.
  • Exercise regularly and maintaining a healthy balanced diet can reduce the risk of developing CTS.
  • Treat existing condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure etc. to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Exercises

If you suffer from CTS, there are several treatment options. The cheapest and the easiest are to do the following exercises. It can be done at home, at a workplace or when you are out for a leisure walk. It is applicable only if you have a mild CTS. For severe cases, please refer to your doctor. Seek treatment as early as possible as untreated CTS can lead to long term nerve damage and disability.

Doing some light physical activities such as gardening will also help. And eat the immune boosting superfood for a stronger body.

Carpal tunnel syndrome EXERCISE
CTS Exercises, from the UK's The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy www.csp.org.uk

Hand Squeeze Exercise

The best way to do the hand squeeze exercise is to use this StringyBall. It is a uniquely designed therapeutic stress ball (comes with a string to prevent the ball from falling or rolling away). StringBall can significantly reduce the discomfort associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and can relax the affected muscle and nerve. It comes with a set of three balls - soft, medium and firm densities to suit your needs and an exercise guide. It cost only $13 at Amazon.com

To give you an idea on how to use StringyBall to do the exercise, I copied the exercise instruction from their exercise guidebook for your reference:
Stress Ball Exercise Guide 
Power Grip: Squeeze the ball with your fingers and thumb. Focus on the pads and fingers, pressing them into the ball.
Pinch: A thumb and fingers exercise. Extend the fingers and thumb and pinch the ball.
Thumb Extension: For the thumb, roll the ball up and down your palm by flexing and extending your thumb. This rolls the ball in a straight back and forth motion.
Table Roll: Place the ball on a table, roll the ball from the tip of your fingers towards your palm.
Finger Flexion: Different from the power grip, hold the ball in your palm and press your fingers into the ball. Focus on an inward movement of the fingers. This is for coordination.
Thumb Roll: Different from the thumb extension. Use your thumb to roll the squeeze ball in a circular motion on your palm.
Finger Squeeze: Just squeeze the ball between two fingers.
Thumb Opposition: Opposite from the thumb extension. The ball is rolled in a side to side direction on your palm using your thumb.
Take care and please share your experience in the comment box below.

Cheers




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Comments

JeremyGF said…
Thanks for this interesting article. Will print and pass it to my dad as I suspect he is having this CTS problem
60plus said…
Hey Jeremy, your dad will love you for this and I am sure he will benefits from reading this CTS article. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
The hand squeeze with a soft ball is very convenient. I do this all the time when I watch TV. Should try this!
Anonymous said…
The exercise example that you posted are useful. I started to do them now even when watching TV.
Angela Morris said…
Wow, why is it women are more susceptible to aches and pains?
Anonymous said…
I have the same problem like you. Driving my automatic car was suppose to be easy. But the stiffness of the gear shift button has now affected my thumb. I don't know what was the reason for this and I suspect it must be due to CTS. Thank you for sharing this interesting article.
TrevorGY said…
If you wear wrist splints may help relieve some of the pain. Give it a try.
LTH said…
I am on the computer for many hours throughout the day and the thought of having Carpal Tunnel Syndrome scares me. I must heed your advice and will do the CTS exercise as a precaution
60plus said…
Hey, thanks for sharing this. The soft ball is really convenient and it is an easy hand squeeze exercise for your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome problem.
60plus said…
That's good to know and please continue to do them
60plus said…
Angela, based on research, hormones may be one of the reasons why women have more pain sensitivity. They also have greater nerve density that causes them to feel pain more badly than men. But studies showed that women cope with pain more constructively than men! So maybe that is a big plus? Thanks for dropping by Angela.
60plus said…
Thank you and I am pleased to know that at least, you now can identify one possible reason of your problem.
60plus said…
That's a good one Trevor. Thanks for sharing.
60plus said…
LTH, nowadays we spend many hours either on the computer or handphone 'keypad' so it is wise to do those exercise, even if we don't suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.