Wrist Pains & Carpal Tunnel

I remember it so clearly even though more than 12 years have passed since it first happened.  It started off feeling sore.  Then my wrist would feel overheated sometimes.  I ignored it thinking it was a calcium deficit… I made up stories as the pains increased.

Eventually, I started wrapping my hand in my shawl as while I worked by my desk.  I tried to avoid the cold as much as possible.  That was tough, since I worked in a full air-conditioned building.  My typing became slower, and more deliberate.

Nighttime was horrible, but I still didn’t have a clue as to what it could be.  I kept working at the office, I kept up my regular home chores routine not realizing that I was actually making the situation worst.  One day at the office, the pain threw me off my chair and I howled!! I kept my arm hugged closely to my body and I cried silently… by now I was the office spectacle and there was an alien attacking my hand from the inside with spike heels on, crushing everything inside my arm, from my elbow to my wrist.  At some points, this alien used a sword to stab down on my knuckles, especially my thumb… and my world, thankfully went dark, and I felt, saw and heard nothing else for a while.

What is the carpal tunnel?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a set of symptoms thought to be caused by squashing (compression) of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel.

Authored by , Reviewed by Dr Louise Newson | Last edited | Meets Patient’s editorial guidelines

There are eight small bones called carpal bones in the wrist. A ligament (also called retinaculum) lies across the front of the wrist. Between this ligament and the carpal bones is a space called the carpal tunnel. The tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the fingers pass through the carpal tunnel. A main nerve (median nerve) to the hand also goes through this tunnel before dividing into smaller branches in the palm.

The median nerve gives feeling to the thumb, index and middle fingers, and half of the ring finger. It also controls the movement of the small muscles at the base of the thumb.

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a collection of symptoms – with pain as the main problem – that result from squashing of the median nerve as it runs through the carpal tunnel.

  • Pins and needles. This is tingling or burning in part or all of the shaded area (see diagram above). This is typically the first symptom to develop. The index and middle fingers are usually first to be affected.
  • Pain in the same fingers may then develop. The pain may travel up the forearm and even to the shoulder.
  • Numbness of the same finger(s), or in part of the palm, may develop if the condition becomes worse.
  • Dryness of the skin may develop in the same fingers.
  • Weakness of some muscles in the fingers and/or thumb occurs in severe cases. This may cause poor grip and eventually lead to muscle wasting at the base of the thumb.

Symptoms tend to come and go at first, often after you use the hand. Typically, symptoms are worse at night and may wake you up.

The symptoms may be eased for a while by raising the hand up or hanging it down. Flicking the wrist may also give relief. Symptoms persist all the time if the condition becomes severe.

General measures

Try not to over-use your wrist by excessive squeezing, gripping, wringing, etc. If you are overweight, losing some weight may help. Painkillers may be prescribed to ease the pain. If the condition is part of a more general medical condition (such as arthritis) then treatment of that condition may help.

A wrist splint

A removable wrist splint (brace) is often advised as a first active treatment. The aim of the splint is to keep the wrist at a neutral angle without applying any force over the carpal tunnel so as to rest the nerve. This may cure the problem if used for a few weeks. However, it is common to wear a splint just at night, which is often sufficient to ease symptoms.

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I was diagnosed with ‘acute symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”.  Those were the exact words the doctor at St Clair Medical said to me.  I remember thinking “my life is over!!! and I don’t even have children yet!!!”.

Let me tell you what worked for me, because your own pains are enough of a heart-breaking story.  You don’t need to know that I would have to leave the office shortly thereafter, and that I spent 5 months with excruciating pains during the day which only worsened at night.  You might say I called it on myself. I should have known better and I should have accepted surgery.

But I was young. I was scared, and I did not want surgery.  Instead, I started to research anti-inflammatory foods.  I also took to YouTube to learn the best exercises to help ease the pain.  After 5 months of being in pain and depression (let’s keep being real), I learned that I needed to take steps to heal.

Here is my regimen:

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