Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

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Given the nature of modern American society, increasingly computer-reliant as it may be, it is reasonably speculated that we have yet to see the worst of carpal tunnel syndrome suffering. This syndrome, often improperly diagnosed as simple arthritis or left untended, is rooted in tendon and ligament aggravation and inflammation. Within the wrist exists a sufficient, though cramped duct through which various skeletal components and bodily tissues extend. When this passage becomes narrowed through carpal tunnel swelling, the bones and ligaments within the wrist pinch at the nerves that extend to the fingers, as well as the muscles at the base of the thumb. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders asserts that the first noticeable symptoms appear during the night, typically a burning, "asleep" numbness in the fingers, particularly the thumb and the index and middle fingers. This hindrance, if further aggravated, will then translate into difficulty and pain while gripping the most common of items. For example, the afflicted office-worker may find himself routinely stapling a document, only to drop it and cry out in pain.

Recent studies have shed quite a bit of light on this frustrating disability, which is now considered one of many "Computer Related Repetitive Strain Injuries," though this is not the only manner in which it may be contracted. While repetitive, work-related wrist trauma remains the foremost cause, it is both interesting and troubling to note that pregnancy, diabetes, and obesity may all predispose a person to eventual carpal tunnel troubles.

These studies, many of which remain ongoing projects, are being conducted by groups like the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and the American Chronic Pain Association. They focus heavily on prevention and rehabilitation efforts, and have reassuringly found that only one percent of afflicted individuals will develop permanent disability as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome. Complete recovery is not unheard of, though it takes considerably heightened awareness of the manner in which the individual carries out repetitive tasks, as well as a relatively undemanding frequency with which these movements are made.

One of the more debated aspects of carpal tunnel syndrome is its treatment. There are many routes to relief that the afflicted individual may choose from, ranging from surgery to wrist immobilization. Elective surgery is a tough choice to make for oneself, and is recommended only for chronic, extreme carpal tunnel sufferers. The operation involves the severing of a ligament at the base of the wrist, which thus relieves the built-up pressure. Reassuringly, this is a last resort, and even the most troublesome of cases may be cured through anti-inflammatory drugs or injections of cortisone into the wrist. Of course, the first treatment should be the least extreme, and would involve immobilizing the wrist in a splint or brace, which serves to absorb a good bit of nerve pressure. It is these wrist-stabilizing devices on which we will now focus.

There is a wide variety of orthopedically designed splints for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, many of which serve the same exact function and can be found next to one another at your local pharmaceutical convenience store. In lesser cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, the afflicted individual may choose which splints to try. A medical opinion is never unwise, however, and your physician will be able to tell you specifically what to shop for in virtually any instance. DocOrtho.com offers a nice variety of simple, functional splints, all similarly priced between fifteen and twenty dollars. Most of these wrist splints employ a stiff PVC plank that runs the length of the inner wrist, the cushioned shell of which fastens along the top of the forearm and around the thumb.

Many people do not appreciate the strap that runs around the thumb, however, and will find that it irritates the sensitive webbing of skin there, particularly while typing. The CarpalMate wrist support is particularly useful for such individuals, as its unique design does not impair the hand by focusing its reinforcing strength at the heel of the palm, almost cupping it, while leaving all fingers completely free and mobile. The CarpalMate is highly regarded by physicians and sufferers, and guarantees results. Other aspects of the basic wrist splint need be determined by personal preference, such as "breathability" (mesh or nylon) and mechanism of closure (Velcro, magnets, etc).

A particularly cutting-edge item in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome is neither a brace nor a splint, and is newly on the market at the expense of Proctor & Gamble. The Hand/Wrist Restorer is an unobtrusive, flexible device that adapts to the shape and size of any hand, and is worn for six to twelve hour shifts overnight. It gently and gradually stretches and realigns wrist and hand muscles, and guarantees ease of sleep and workplace efficiency within a week of use. This product, though personally untested, comes very highly recommended. These are disposable devices, and can be purchased for either hand (or both) in a number of different packages. Though a bit pricier than the basic wrist braces, at $19.95 apiece, the Hand/Wrist Restorer is likely to provide relief even for more intense sufferers, and Proctor & Gamble offers a complete thirty day money-back guarantee.

When differentiating between the basic wrist brace and splint, keep in mind that the splint serves, at its most basic level, to immobilize to some extent. The brace, on the other hand, will tend to offer a bit more flexibility and long-term comfort (after several hours of wear), though may be bulkier and hindering. The Cinch-Lock Wrist and Forearm Brace, for example, offers tremendous relief and protection through extensive padding and malleable wrist support, though turns many customers off because of its eight and eleven inch models. The Bioskin DP brace is very popular, as it offers protection in a more compact manner, intending to simulate actual skin. The simple, but durable and effective Wrist Timer offers daytime and nighttime models, both of which impede damaging wrist movements and very little else. The holistically-motivated sufferer may want to try a magnetized brace, which insists on improved circulation as a combative measure against carpal tunnel syndrome. A particularly useful website for investigating and ordering a wide variety of braces is www.supportsusa.com.

Also widely available on this website are protective and preventative gloves, which offer more comfort than the average brace or splint. The Manutrain wrist support glove, for example, offers a supple shell and silicone inserts, intended to reduce swelling and enhance circulation. It is not cheap, at sixty dollars, but appears the most satisfying and wearable product. Somewhat cheaper and nearly as effective is the Silopad Carpal Gel Sleeve. Its cushy contours around the palm and wrist are quite desirable to the carpal tunnel sufferer, as well as its streamlined, flesh-toned design. In conjunction with these gloves, or as a stand-alone measure, various clamping bands are available. Often splinted or infused with a gelatinous substance, these bands are generally worn tightly just below the elbow, and provide pain-reducing compression leading to the carpal tunnel of the wrist. These bands are appreciated for their inconspicuous nature and their adaptable use, as they may aid in the treatment of arthritis, tennis-elbow, and various other repetitive strain disorders within the forearm. They tend not to be any cheaper, however, averaging twenty-five to thirty-five dollars, and it is recommended that a physician or orthopedist be consulted before purchasing any specialized support.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a frustrating, debilitating disorder that may manifest itself in a variety of ways. Diagnosis is typically case-specific, and the type of treatment may often be based on the individual’s needs and/or preferences. The weight lifter may prefer a brace, while the typist may prefer a splint, glove, or band. People, as a rule, react to pain as they see fit, and so there can be no truly standard treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. It is important not to ignore this condition, however, as doing so will likely result in further discomfort. The above treatments are certainly not a comprehensive list of options, though hopefully they may provide the suffering researcher with a bit of direction in treating his or her woes.

Read more: Causes and Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.