Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a fairly common condition affecting the wrist and hand. Around one in 20 people in the UK will develop CTS and it’s more common during pregnancy and among middle-aged women.
CTS is caused by pressure being put on the median nerve in your wrist. This nerve controls movement and feeling in your hand. When pressure is applied to it, this can cause tingling, pain and numbness in your hand and fingers.
Symptoms often start slowly and then come and go over time. They include:
You can sometimes treat CTS yourself with regular exercises and in some cases this will be enough for it to go away after a few months. Exercises should be performed on a daily basis, especially if you do a job that requires you to use your hands a lot, such as driving or typing. This will help relieve the pressure on your median nerve and ease your symptoms.
Here are four exercises to help reduce the effects of CTS.
This is one of the simplest exercises you can perform and is easy to do throughout the day.
There are a few different ways you can perform a median nerve glide, but this is one of the simplest.
This exercise is ideal if you have a busy schedule as you can easily do it anywhere.
For this exercise, you will need a weighted object, such as a can of beans.
Over time, slowly increase the weight you hold — you can do this by filling a bottle or container with different amounts of water. This will gradually strengthen your wrist and ensure the exercise continues to be effective.
If your symptoms don’t get any better or they get worse, talk to your GP about treatments for CTS. There are a few treatment options depending on how severe your CTS is.
Wearing a wrist splint can help keep your wrist straight and reduce the pressure on your median nerve. It’s best to wear it at night, which is often when symptoms are worse. Try wearing it for at least four weeks.
If a wrist splint doesn’t help, your GP may suggest a steroid injection into your wrist. This will help reduce inflammation around the nerve and consequently reduce the pressure on it and ease your symptoms.
Steroid injections do not always cure CTS and you may need to have another injection after a few months. However, it is not recommended to have more than two injections as this can damage the tissue in your wrist.
If other treatments have not helped and your CTS is getting worse, your GP may refer you for carpal tunnel surgery. Surgery involves cutting a ligament in your wrist which forms part of a tunnel through which your median nerve runs (the carpal tunnel). This helps relieve pressure on the nerve.
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