Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may begin as a tingling in the fingers from too much repetitive movement, but left untreated can develop into a serious condition that may even require surgery. Let’s address the situation before it becomes a liability by applying some common sense and a little Yoga Tune Up®!
My Thumb Is Numb
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a swelling of the tissues in the wrist. This swelling can occur for several different reasons, but the end result is that it puts pressure on the median nerve, a major nerve in the hand for both movement and feeling.
When the nerve is impinged in this way, it can cut off both our ability to feel sensation in the hand, and our ability to control the fingers. Initial symptoms may show up as an ache in the wrist that can extend into the hand and up the arm. This can then develop into tingling and numbness in the thumb and middle fingers, and a weakness or tendency to drop things.
However, if the sensation is accompanied by pain or pinching in other areas, it may indicate that the problem is not limited to the wrist but is actually originating deeper in the body. The median nerve is formed from branches of five nerves that originate in the neck and upper back. Because of this, the nerve can be impinged in many different areas (neck, upper back, shoulder, forearm) and all of these will produce similar symptoms in the wrist.
What Brought This On?
Repetitive clasping movements (which flex the tendons in the wrist), rheumatoid arthritis, hormonal imbalances, and even the fluid retention that can happen with pregnancy can all bring on carpal tunnel syndrome. There are no definitive studies to prove this, but many people have developed carpal tunnel syndrome from excessive time spent typing or holding a mouse, or from holding a steering wheel too hard or typing with too much force.
In addition, poor alignment in the neck, or tight muscles in the upper back and neck could also create the same conditions of impingement that would bring on tingling, pain and numbness in the fingers and wrist. If your neck is especially tight, or if you habitually hold a shoulder slightly raised, this can put excessive pressure on the delicate branches of nerves in the neck and upper back.
How Do I Make It Better?
Mild to moderate symptoms can be treated with simple, non-surgical therapies. But if symptoms are persistent and getting worse, you may want to consult a doctor for further options.
Below are three techniques that can be applied immediately for results:
1. Loosen your grip, change the angle and sit up straight! Take a few moments to assess your daily habits and movements, and see what you can do to create optimal alignment in your body. If you grip your steering wheel or mouse tightly, see if you can consciously loosen your grip. If you repetitively strike a keyboard or cash register, try to do it with less force.
Also, pay attention to the angle in your wrist, and the placement of your arms as you perform the repetitive action. Move the keyboard to elbow height to keep the wrists in as neutral a position as possible. Sit with good posture, with the shoulders relaxed and shoulderblades releasing down your back. And take frequent breaks to rest the wrists.
2. Ice and splints If your wrist is swollen, apply a cold pack or ice to reduce the inflammation and take the pressure off the median nerve. You can also wear a wrist splint at night while sleeping to keep the wrist in a neutral position and avoid exacerbating the situation in your sleep.
3. Stretch and strengthen Begin to integrate exercises to stretch and strengthen both the wrists and the upper back and neck, so the body can hold itself in healthy alignment and protect the nerve as it travels through the arm to the wrist.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common problem, but with a little attention and some simple stretching and strengthening exercises, it doesn’t have to be!
Read our carpal tunnel syndrome article.
Learn about our solutions for hand and wrist pain.