During your lunch hour, you are having a conversation with colleagues. One of the employees says she’s been experiencing numbness in her fingers at night and is reluctant to consult her doctor about it. She thinks it is due to her sleeping position. Having the same kind of symptoms for the past few months, you realize that you are not the only one with this problem. Is it possible that this is a coincidence and that each of you adopts a bad sleeping position at night?
Probably not! You may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. This syndrome is caused by irritation, compression or stretching of the median nerve, one of the nerves of the arm that runs through the wrist through an opening called the carpal tunnel. When a nerve is compressed or injured, the electrical current flowing through it travels less efficiently,resulting in numbness or muscle weakness.
Why am I suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome?
The median nerve shares the space available in the carpal tunnel with various muscle tendons. Since there is little excess space in the carpal tunnel, any increase in the amout of structure passing through it produces compression on the nerve. The main risk factors for developing carpal tunnel syndrome are the use of vibrating tools, manual or repetitive work and working in the cold. For people working at a computer, poor posture, an unsuitable desk (wrong height) or repetitive use of the mouse can promote the development of the syndrome.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms usually begin with numbness and tingling in the thumb, index and middle fingers, most often at night and in the morning. If left untreated, symptoms may progress to become constant. Burning sensations may also occur, and in more severe cases, compression on the nerve can lead to muscle weakness.
What should I do if I have carpal tunnel syndrome?
If you experience numbness in your hand or arm, the first thing you should do is consult your doctor. He or she will determine the cause of your symptoms. If your doctor confirms that you have carpal tunnel syndrome, the next step is to make an appointment with your physiotherapist.
During treatment sessions, tendon and nerve mobilization techniques will help the structures passing through the carpal tunnel move better. Mobilization of the bones of the wrist will help the carpal tunnel to better accommodate the movements of the wrist. Your physiotherapist will make sure to advise you on your work posture or on how to perform your movements to reduce symptoms. A specific exercise program to be done at home will also help you recover.
So if you are experiencing recurring numbness in your fingers or hand, do not hesitate to seek help from your doctor and physiotherapist. They will help you eliminate your symptoms and allow you to return to your activities or work safely. You will also be able to advise your colleagues who may be suffering from the same problem as you.
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Vincent has a master’s degree in physiotherapy from the University of Montreal. Vincent brings his knowledge of skiing as an instructor for the Quebec Foundation for the Blind since 2014. He also works as a lifeguard for Patro le Prévost, one of the oldest non-profit organizations in Quebec.
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