How to Recover From Carpal Tunnel
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, also known as CTS, is a repetitive strain injury of the wrist that about 1% of the population will experience sometime in their life. It is often the result of repetitive motions and movements of the wrist, such as typing, writing, or other tasks that require lots of movement of the hands and wrists. Certain people can be more likely to develop it. For example, it's common in pregnant women, because doctors believe it's a result of fluid build-up and liquid retention from pregnancy. The main location of the injury is the median nerve, which is located in the wrist, but this can cause pain, discomfort, numbness, and hot or cold feelings in the hand or the fingers as well. Many researchers believe that those who eventually end up getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are actually victims of genetics, and that the bones of their wrists may be more fragile or slender than other people and are more likely to crush the median nerve when doing repetitive actions. CTS is one of the most commonly diagnosed injuries of the upper body extremities, but it is sometimes confused with Tendonitis, which also affects the same areas. It can be hard to tell the difference between the two, but if your pain is radiating from the bottom side of the wrist (the side that the palm of your hand is on) and if your pinky finger is not affected, then it's almost certainly CTS and not Tendonitis. So if you do in fact suffer from CTS, here is a basic guide on how to recover from it quickly and prevent it from happening again.
Take a Break
The first thing you should do when you start to experience CTS symptoms is take a rest from all activities that involve the wrist or hands. You should also try to identify which exact motion it was that was the initial cause of your pain. For example, I once suffered from Carpal Tunnel pain, and I use a mouse a lot while I'm on the computer. I also write with a pen and paper many times throughout the day. I do not type on the keyboard much, so I knew that typing probably wasn't the cause. It was most likely from clicking the mouse all day and moving it around with my wrist, as well as clenching my hand up when I write with a pen. So I took a break from all wrist, hand, and finger activities, and once I began to recover, I made a point to reduce how often I write and use the mouse. They key to a quick recovery and permanent pain relief is identifying the source of the problem, so not only can you heal fast but you can avoid it through prevention so it doesn't happen again. If you do lots of typing for work or for taking notes, you should buy a voice recorder from your local Target, CVS, Walmart, or office supply store. Record your voice instead of typing or writing whenever possible.
Use a Brace
To make sure you don't continue to crush your median nerve by repeating the same actions, you should purchase a wrist brace from your local pharmacy such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, or CVS. You can also buy braces or gloves at stores like Target or Walmart, but I found a better selection in pharmacies. I shopped around a lot and the average cost of a wrist splint or brace is around $20, with some being as high as $40 and some as low as $15. But these major price differences are mostly due to different brands or models, not because they are cheaper in different stores. I didn't notice any major price differences when I compared similar products in various stores. They're all around the same price no matter where you go, with maybe a $1 or $2 difference. I tried two different brands because the first brand, the Futuro Reversible Splint Wrist Brace, was extremely uncomfortable for me and seemed to make my pain worse after wearing it for an hour. Maybe it's designed mainly for people with larger wrists, because I have skinny wrists, even though I purchased a one-size-fits-all model. I tried moving it around and readjusting the tightness to see if making it more relaxed and loose or more tight would make a difference, to no avail. After returning it for a refund at Rite Aid, I purchased the Imak SmartGlove from the same store and found that it helped me recover rather quickly and was much more comfortable. I think the main thing that made the difference is that the splint in the Futuro product is on the bottom of the glove and runs along the wrist towards the palm. The splint on the Imak Smart glove is positioned on the top of the glove, so it runs towards the back of the hand. Also, the Imak product has a bean bag rest that the palm of your hand rests on and adds further support. This may actually be what made it better for me, but it's hard to tell. Either way, the Imak worked exactly like it should so I can't complain.
Posture is also very important to your recovery, and also prevention. Whenever typing or doing anything that involves your arm, forearm, fingers, elbows, hand, or wrist, you need to make sure everything is postured correctly and positioned straight. If your elbows, for example, are facing the wrong direction, then that affects your arm and your arm affects your wrist and so on. So even keeping your back straight and shoulders in a relaxed position can help you heal your lower extremities. Also, if you're using a keyboard, make sure that it's at a comfortable position from you. It shouldn't be too far or too close, but to where your arm can feel relaxed when using it and your wrists won't have to bend at weird angles when typing. Most keyboards, with the exception of laptop models, can be placed at a slant in a position that faces you by using the plastic props underneath them. This can help, and you should also make sure the mouse isn't too far of a distance from you as well. If you can't bring it closer because of the cord, then you should purchase a wireless mouse and maybe use it on your knee, or better yet, an extending keyboard tray attachment under your desk.
To control pain and speed up the healing process, you may want to use various therapies, natural remedies, or alternative treatment to treat your CTS. Ice and heat packs can be beneficial for healing if you can gently rest them on your wrist and hand. Soaking your wrist in water filled with epsom salt can be very beneficial too, but this may be difficult to do and still keep your arm straight. For this, I would recommend that you take baths in hot water and pour some epsom salt into the bath. This helps relax the muscles in your arm and promotes blood flow. If you're in serious pain, doctors can give you corticosteroid injections to relieve pain. However, this is only a temporary solution and doesn't necessarily help healing. It should only be done in extreme cases while a person is waiting for the healing process to complete, and only once or twice early on in the process. Some people have stated that repeated ultrasound may work as well, but there isn't much medical research to back this up and it may just be a placebo effect. People may be trying to heal anyways, and so their wrists start to heal naturally and they assume that it's the ultrasound making things better, when it's actually just their precautions of staying away from keyboards and their mouse or whatever they know to cause them pain.
Exercises can help some people because it promotes better circulation, but it's not recommended for everyone because it can also cause further injury. If your Carpal Tunnel pain isn't chronic and signs of having it only just recently showed up, then I probably wouldn't attempt to exercise. It should only be practiced by people who are chronic sufferers or who have had it for a long time and still haven't completely healed. I myself never did it when I had CTS and I healed up after about a month. But if you've "exercised" all your other options, then exercising may help. But you should definitely stop doing them if you experience any increase in pain after performing them. There's a few different types that people can do, but one of the most common ones can be found below:
1. Extend both arms out in front of you while standing up or sitting up straight in a chair. With your arms extended outwards, take both hands and raise them upwards, as if you are directing traffic and telling a car in front of you on the road to stop. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
2. Relax your hands and fingers and bring them back down while keeping your wrists straight still and your arms still extended. Let them hang for a second, completely relaxed.
3. Next, make a fist with both of your hands and clench it up real tight. While in this position, bend your wrists downwards so your fists are facing the floor. Hold this position for a further 5 seconds.
4. Repeat the movements you did in step #2 by relaxing again and bring your arms back down towards your body to rest. Repeat this exercise 4 or 5 times a day.
As you probably already, know what we eat directly affects our body and our immune system. In order for you to heal efficiently and quickly, you'll need to make sure you're eating healthy. Try to stay away from red meat or foods that clog arteries and slow circulation. Instead, eat lots of fish, vegetables, and healthy foods and make sure you drink lots of water each day. You can also include turmeric, fish oil, or b vitamin supplements into your diet to speed up healing and reduce inflammation. You may even want to check online or visit your local health food or nutrition store and ask what other natural herbs and vitamins can help healing and have anti-inflammation properties. Just be careful to only take the recommended dosage of vitamins because it's unhealthy to take more than the daily recommended dosage.
As a last resort, if all else fails and you've waited many months and are still in pain, then endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery may be needed. What they do during the operation is they cut open a section of your wrist and they separate a ligament, known as the transverse carpal ligament, into two different sections. This helps free up some space between them so they don't crush the median nerve (which is the source of all your problems). The surgery itself has a 90% success rate according to a 2005 report published in Volume 97 of the Acta Neurochirurgica Supplementum medical journal. The cost of the surgery without insurance in the U.S. is usually in the range of $7,000-$12,000, with an average price of $10,000. This usually includes post-op rehabilitation services as well.
As mentioned already, the cost of carpal tunnel release surgery is very expensive in the United States. For this reason, many people choose to have the surgery done in cheaper countries, such as India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. This trend of traveling to other countries for medical procedures is known as Medical Tourism, and CTS is one of the main injuries that people travel abroad to get fixed. Keep in mind, that many doctors in the U.S. come from these countries and many doctors in these countries were trained at U.S. schools. But one risk many people worry about is how hard it would be as a tourist to take legal action against a company in another country, if things should go wrong. Still, many people put these worries aside and elect to get on a plane, because the prices are hard to ignore in contrast the U.S. prices. In India, the average cost of CT release surgery is about $1,200. In Malaysia, it's $3,000, Singapore between $3,000 and $5,000 and in Thailand between $1,000 and $2,500. A roundtrip plane ticket to these countries from the U.S. is usually in the range of $900 - $1,500. So I'm sure you can easily see why medical tourism is so alluring to many CTS sufferers.
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