Athletes who play a sport requiring them to grasp something while repeatedly twisting and turning their wrists are at increased risk of developing CTS. Although it can be caused by any sport involving prolonged use of the hand and wrist, some sports have a higher risk of developing CTS. These include most racquet sports, handball, body building, golf, rowing, archery, rock climbing and swimming. CTS can also be caused by an injury or arthritis related disease.
Whether you are suffering from CTS or would like to prevent it from occurring, there are simple and effective measures you can take. Various methods for carpal tunnel treatment and prevention range from stretching and massage, all the way to surgery.
About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
CTS is a compression of the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand through a narrow gap in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve serves the thumb, forefinger, middle finger and parts of the ring finger. CTS does not directly affect the little finger. CTS is progressive, so symptoms can gradually increase over time. Compression in the carpal tunnel results from swelling, inflammation or anything else that causes pressure the tendons and nerves.
As with the rest of the body, it is important to warm up the wrist and hand before engaging in strenuous activity. Although no strategy has been proven to prevent CTS, there are a few precautions that help to minimize stress on your hands and wrists:
- Relax your grip and use less force. If you play racquet sports, a larger grip with padding will reduce stress and shock to your hand and wrist. Wear padded gloves when playing handball to reduce shock when you hit the ball.
- Take frequent breaks and gently stretch your hands and let them relax. Switch tasks when possible. Breaks are especially important for sports and other tasks that involve vibration or shock to your hands.
- Watch your form. Try to keep your wrists in a neutral and straight position. Be especially careful to avoid keeping the hand bent forward, as this tends to pinch the carpal tunnel.
- Watch your posture. When your shoulders are rolled forward, and your neck and shoulder muscles are shortened, it compresses the nerves in your neck. This can affect the nerves all the way down to your fingers.
Carpal Tunnel Treatment
Various methods are used to treat CTS. Surgery to release the carpal tunnel is the most drastic and usually reserved for the worst cases. A fitted wrist brace with a splint is useful for keeping the wrist in a neutral position to lessen pressure on the carpal tunnel. This is especially useful at night if your wrist tends to bend forward when you sleep.
Kinesiology Tape is effective for relieving the pressure and pain of CTS. It helps to stabilize the wrist while maintaining flexibility. Kinesiology tape helps to improve circulation and relieve pressure by microscopically lifting the skin from the muscles. It can be worn around the clock for continued relief of CTS during the day and while you sleep. See Kinesiology Taping Technique for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for instructions about using this method.
CTS is a problem that should not be ignored because it will often become worse, and can progress to the point where surgery becomes necessary.