As we go through life, our hands are used for many different tasks. Whether it’s typing on a computer keyboard, working on a production line in a factory, or participating in sports, our hands are put to the test daily. However, if they are put through the rigors long enough, problems can result.
One of the most common health problems associated with our hands is carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition in which nerves in our wrists get compressed and don’t allow the hand to function normally. For those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, its symptoms can be some of the most painful and frustrating experiences they will ever have.
While most carpal tunnel syndrome cases only affect the hands, some people experience symptoms in their forearms or even their shoulders in extreme cases. The most common symptom is a numbness or pain in your hand, wrist or forearm that will often wake you up at night. When this happens, most people attempt to shake or move their fingers to get rid of the pain and numbness. Other people experience occasional numbness, pain, tingling or what’s called a “pins and needles” sensation in their hands, as if something is constantly pricking them with sharp objects. These symptoms are often referred to as your hand “falling asleep,” much like your feet may do at times.
As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses, you may start to feel stiffness in your fingers when you first awaken in the morning. Once you get up and start moving around, the numbness and pain often gets worse the more you use your hands. People tend to complain about pain in the morning when they start gripping their coffee mugs, razors, eating utensils, or other items that must be gripped. The pain and numbness can also be present when you start bending or flexing your wrists, putting more pressure on the compressed nerves that are causing the problem. For those with advanced cases, pain and numbness in the forearm may also occur.
Other than the little finger, all other fingers and your thumb are usually affected by carpal tunnel syndrome. This is because the median nerve, which is the nerve being compressed, does not affect the little finger. While symptoms can occur in both hands, you will usually have worse symptoms in one hand than the other. In most cases, your dominant hand will be the one affected most, though that’s not always the case.
As the symptoms progress, you will start to have a harder time doing simple tasks with your hands. For example, you might start dropping a fork or comb when trying to use them. You’ll also have a harder time using your thumb to open jars or use tools such as screwdrivers, and you won’t be able to pinch objects between your thumb and first finger.
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