Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is caused by an increased pressure on the median nerve within the wrist. This nerve provides sensation to the thumb, index, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. The little finger is usually not affected. When the median nerve is compressed, patients can experience numbness, tingling and weakness in the affected arm, hand, wrist and fingers.

  Often, there is no single cause for CTS. Most times, a combination of risk factors come together to contribute to the development of this condition. Some possible risk factors that have been associated with CTS include:

  • Wrist trauma or injury. A wrist sprain, dislocation or fracture can alter the space within the carpal tunnel, leading to the median nerve being irritated or squeezed.
  • Prolonged repetitive motion. Activities that involve extreme flexion or extension (such as typing, sewing, hammering, or cleaning) of the hand for prolonged periods can irritate tendons within the wrist and compress the median nerve.
  • The carpal tunnel is relatively smaller in women than in men. Hormonal changes and fluid retention during pregnancy also make them more susceptible to CTS.
  • Degenerative changes in the wrist anatomy and existing health problems put the elderly at a higher risk of CTS.
  • Other medical conditions. Certain conditions like menopause, thyroid disorders, gout and rheumatoid arthritis may increase the risks of CTS. Chronic illnesses such as diabetic nerve complications can further aggravate the condition and retard recovery.

    Symptoms from CTS are best addressed with STRETCHES that can be done at any time of the day in the comfort of your home. These basic moves are simple and do not require any equipment. However, do ease off the stretches if you experience extreme pain.

    1. Overhead stretch. Interlock your fingers and extend your arms towards the sky, slowly straightening the elbows with palm facing upwards. Hold for a few counts before releasing to rest position.
    2. Wrist extension. Straighten the elbow and extend your arm forward, with palm facing the front and fingers pointing downwards. Pull back on your fingers with the other hand. Hold for 15-30 seconds before releasing.
    3. Prayer Stretch. Put palms together in front of your chest and feel a mild to moderate stretch under the forearms. Hold for 15-30 seconds before releasing.

    Besides stretches, daily ACUPOINT MASSAGE can also help in reducing pain. It is recommended to massage these points once or twice daily for 1-2 minutes each.

  • Da Ling Xue. Located in the center of the wrist crease.
  • Nei Guan Xue. Located in the center of the inner forearm, three fingers width above the wrist crease.
  • Qu Chi Xue. Located at the end of the outer edge of the elbow crease.

    Although there is no proven method to prevent CTS, one can be mindful in minimising stress on the hands and wrists by practicing some of these SELF-CARE tips.
  • Lighten up. Avoid using a tight grip while working with a pen, computer mouse or any hand-held devices. Try relaxing your grip.
  • Stay warm. Keeping your hands warm by wearing gloves or hand warmers can help in alleviating pain and stiffness.
  • Stretch it out. Regular hand and wrist stretches can relieve muscle tension and reduce median nerve compression.
  • Take breaks. Give your hands and wrists a break when engaging in repetitive tasks. Stretch your hands or wiggle your fingers to improve blood circulation to these areas.
  • Wear a wrist brace. A wrist brace can help to keep the wrist in a neutral position and relieve pressure on the carpal tunnel.

    While CTS can be painful and disruptive to daily life, seeking timely treatment is often the best way to ensure a complete recovery. If left untreated, chronic CTS can result in nerve damage and muscle wasting in the affected hand and arm, causing irreversible damage to a person’s grip strength.

    Health Education