Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are the most common job-related physical injuries and are responsible for the highest number of days lost among all work related injuries. Mixed in with the emotional issues of stress and anxiety, this can become quite the scary combination.

One of the most well-known types of repetitive stress injury is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). It accounts for over two million visits to the physician's office and approximately 465,000 carpal tunnel release operations each year – making it the most frequent surgery of the hand and wrist.  

What to do for carpal tunnel pain

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist made up of ligaments and bones. The median nerve and the tendons that connect the fingers to the muscles of the forearm pass through this tightly spaced tunnel.  

Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve entrapment, occurs when swelling or irritation of the tendons in the carpal tunnel results in pressure on the median nerve causing pain in the palm side of the wrist and pain and tingling in the fingers. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers, as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. Find out below the various exercises, routines and natural remedies you can try to relieve pain of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms and preventing carpal tunnel

Symptoms of carpal tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive stress injury that refers specifically to the inflammation of a specific ligament. Repetitive stress injuries include tightness, stiffness, pain, tingling, numbness, coldness and loss of strength in the arm. Severe carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms usually start gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the index, middle and ring fingers. Pain can sometimes travel up the arm and affect the shoulder. The symptoms often first appear during the night. As symptoms worsen, people might feel pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm during the day. Decreased grip strength may make it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks. If not properly treated, CTS can cause irreversible nerve damage and permanent deterioration of muscle tissue.

Carpal tunnel syndrome natural pain relief

From a Chinese medicine perspective, a repetitive stress injury is seen as a disruption of the flow of Qi and blood within the area which is due to cold, dampness or wind penetrating the muscles and sinews. Acupuncture points, stretching exercises, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are great natural remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Acupuncture is extremely effective for treating repetitive stress injuries and is a cure for carpal tunnel without surgery or the use of anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. In fact, one of the most common reasons that people get acupuncture is for repetitive stress injuries. Recent studies even suggest that acupuncture may be more effective than corticosteroids when it comes to treating CTS.

In addition to reducing the swelling, inflammation and pain, acupuncture addresses any headaches, neck pain, shoulder stiffness and sleeping problems that often accompany this condition. Your treatment may also take into account any underlying conditions that contribute to the development of RSI including posture, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems, diabetes, and hormonal changes of pregnancy and menopause.

If you would like to learn about acupuncture, click here.

How to treat carpal tunnel naturally

How to reduce risk of carpal tunnel

Managing repetitive stress injuries often requires some lifestyle changes, and it can take time to work out a strategy that works best for you. Here are a few minor changes and practical tips you can implement to minimize stress on your hands and wrists:

1. Alternate tasks

Avoid doing the same task for more than a couple of hours at a time and alternate between tasks that use different muscle groups where possible. Fatigue is a sign that you need to take a break. Take small breaks to gently stretch and bend your hands and wrists and readjust your position. 

2. Reduce pressure

Many people use more force than needed to perform tasks involving their hands, which can increase pressure and cause irritation. Be mindful of the speed and amount of pressure used to perform tasks. Ease up, slow down, and grip using your palm or whole hand to distribute the load. If using tools such as riveters or jackhammers for extended periods, take frequent breaks or operate the tool at a speed that causes the least amount of vibration.

3. Cultivate good posture

Incorrect posture can cause your shoulders to roll forward, shortening neck and shoulder muscles and compressing nerves in your neck, which can affect your wrists, hands, and fingers.  

Shoulders and neck should be relaxed to open the chest and allow your head to float upwards without strain. When using a keyboard, wrists should be in a relaxed middle position and in a straight line with your forearms at elbow height or slightly lower.

READ NEXT: Tried and tested remedies and products to help you manage carpal tunnel.

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Learn how acupuncture can help prevent and ease the painful symptoms of repetitive stress injury like carpal tunnel syndrome.

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