Working at a desk has become a norm for society. Many jobs require us to work long hours of repetitive work. Putting our bodies through continual routines can cause discomfort and disharmony. A common complaint among many clients has been pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm. This can be due to many factors and it is important to be clear on what the true issue could be.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is on the anterior aspect of the wrist. This allows the median nerve to pass through into the thumb and first three fingers. When this tunnel becomes inflamed or entraps the nerve, it can cause pain and numbness in the first three fingers. This syndrome is more commonly caused by repetitive forceful motions, like using a jack hammer or assembly line work with tools. Pregnant women, diabetics, and people who are obese have a greater risk of this syndrome. Other factors can include trauma or injury to the wrist, genetics, rheumatoid arthritis and disease processes.
When a certain muscle or muscle group is being used over and over again, the muscles will tighten. When a muscle is tight that does not mean it is strong or toned. Tight muscles can lose their memory thus being unable to go back to a full resting length. This can cause nerve entrapment, reduced circulation, and swelling.
What ISN’T Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Often times this symptom can be misdiagnosed. There are many alternative diagnosis that can be considered:
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – compression of the nerves that pass from the neck to the arm causing pain in the shoulder, arm, or hand (mostly 4th and 5th fingers).
- Ulnar Nerve Injury – trauma or long-term compression on the ulnar nerve or “funny bone”.
A common misdiagnosis is Tendinitis. While most people believe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by repetitive work such as computer or esthetician work, there is not much research to back that up. Tendinitis causes pain in your forearm or hand, normally without any numbness or tingling. If there is numbness, it affects the whole hand, not just the three fingers. Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons around the wrist joint. Overuse of the keyboard and other repetitive motions are linked to tendonitis.
How Can The Pain Be Prevented?
Being aware of your body is the first step to preventing discomfort. Be sure your wrist are straight, not flexed, when using a keyboard. Take small breaks every so often, even if they are only 15-30 seconds.
Take the time to stretch your neck, shoulder, arm, and wrist. Here is a helpful video for shoulder and neck stretches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLPfP1oRJFM
When stretching the wrist the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals say, use a tabletop that is a good height for you. Place the palm of the hand (on the arm you’re going to stretch first) down on the table with your fingers pointing behind you. Use your legs to move your body up and down in order to stretch the flexor muscles of the forearm. Hold each stretch for no more than two seconds. This is very important. Use your other hand or thumb to apply moderate pressure, stroking down the “stretching” arm during each stretch. Be sure to move the stroking hand over all the different flexor muscles in the forearm. The elbow, of the arm that’s being stretched, should be locked. Repeat this technique 20 to 30 times.
Next, stretch the extensor muscles. Make a soft fist and put your fist flat on the table. Again, using your legs, as you bend at the knees, roll your wrist forward to stretch the extensors. It is important to hold the stretch for only two seconds, returning back to the neutral position between each stretch. Use your other hand or thumb to apply a moderate amount of pressure, stroking down the extensor muscles. Keep the elbow, of the arm you are stretching, locked. You only need to stretch hard enough to feel a good firm stretch. If you stretch too hard, you will cause your muscles to tighten up even more. Repeat the stretch for the extensors approximately 20 to 30 times.
How Massage Can Help
Massage Therapy is of great benefit to wrist and arm pain. The right therapist will release tension, adhesions, and trigger points in the tissue. The shoulder and arm will be worked out of internal rotation. The body will be looked at as a whole system, therefore the wrist and arm may not be the only areas worked. The wrist, arm, shoulder, cervical, and clavicle region will be taken into consideration.
The amount of time/sessions a client will need for relief will vary on their condition and the degree of it. Some clients may improve in one session and some may need a few more than that.
Are You Experiencing Concerning Discomfort?
If you are wondering if you may have one of these conditions, or perhaps one I did not mention, take the time to ask a professional for help. See your doctor or a therapist to get the answers you need. It is beneficial to get advice from multiple sources before determining your condition. As you can imagine there are many nerves, tendons, and muscles involving our wrists and arms. That means there are a variety of symptoms for many different conditions.
Always remember to take care of yourself. Our hands and wrists help us do so much, it is vital to be sure they are healthy!