Have you been noticing pain in your hands and wrists lately, along with your fibromyalgia pain? Do your fingers ever feel tingly or numb? If so, then you may be suffering from a condition that is often associated with fibromyalgia, called carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome can affect how well you are able to use your arms, hands, and wrists and, if severe, can even be debilitating. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also exacerbate your other fibromyalgia symptoms.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition that affects your wrists, hands, and arms. It is caused by the compression of one of your main nerves, called the median nerve, which runs from you forearm, through your wrist, and into your hand. The median nerve is found inside a cavity in your arm called the carpal tunnel, and this is how the syndrome gets its name. Sometimes, this median nerve becomes squeezed at the wrist, resulting in symptoms of pain and numbness.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is becoming more and more common in today’s society. This is because of the continuous strain that we are putting on our wrists, hands, and arms. As we spend more time in front of the computer, playing video games, or working on the assembly line, health care providers are seeing more cases of carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, about 10% of the American population suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may be wondering why your median nerve is being compressed inside your wrist. Well, there are actually a number of reasons as to why this may be happening. Sometimes, bone spurs or other abnormalities of the wrists or arms compress the median nerve.
Genetics also tends to play a role in carpal tunnel syndrome – some people are just born with narrower carpal tunnels, which results in compression of the median nerve. Most often though, carpal tunnel is the result of swollen tendons that surround the median nerve in your wrist. As these tendons become more swollen, they press down on the median nerve causing pain. Tendons can become swollen due to:
- repetitive motions, such as keyboarding, sewing, or knitting
- the use of power tools
- injury to the wrists, hands, or forearms
Who Gets Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Anyone is at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome – it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, young or old. However, there are certain risk factors that seem to increase your chances of developing the syndrome.
Risk factors include:
- being female
- being pregnant
- having diabetes
- having hyperthyroidism
- having rheumatoid arthritis
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Fibromyalgia
People who suffer from fibromyalgia are also at increased risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, recent studies performed on fibromyalgia patients show that women with fibromyalgia are much more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome than those women who do not have fibromyalgia.
Up to 55% of all fibromyalgia patients have carpal tunnel syndrome. This percentage is more than five times greater than the risk for the general population.
It is unknown why so many fibromyalgia suffers have carpal tunnel syndrome. It may be due to the tender points caused by fibromyalgia or increased pain messages sent by the brain.
Carpal tunnel may also be the result of injuries caused by improper posture. Due to the debilitating pain, many fibromyalgia patients use their bodies and limbs awkwardly, which can result in injury.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms tend to escalate over time, gradually becoming worse and worse.
- numbness in the fingers
- pain or tingling in the wrists and hands
- nighttime wrist, arm, and hand pain
- shooting pains that travel from the wrist to the shoulder
- increasing weakness in the hand
- difficulty picking up or grasping objects
Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Though symptoms are painful, treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is typically very effective. In fact, more than 90% of sufferers recover completely.
- The first step in treatment is allowing your wrist to rest for at least 2 weeks. Sometimes, a wrist splint can be worn to help keep your wrist in position and prevent injury.
- Applying ice can help to reduce the swelling in your wrist, reducing pain symptoms.
- Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen are excellent for reducing carpal tunnel pain
- For more serious pain, injections of corticosteroids can provide immediate relief
- If your carpal tunnel syndrome is persistent, surgery may be your best option. During surgery your health care provider will cut the top of the carpal tunnel, stopping it from compressing the median nerve.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Most of the time, carpal tunnel syndrome is preventable. If you have fibromylaiga, it is especially important to be aware of CTS and work to prevent it.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes make the pain, fatigue, and disability of fibromyalgia even worse. Here are some easy tips to follow to keep your wrists free of pain.
- Avoid repetitive tasks whenever possible.
- Adjust the height of your chair so that your arms are level with your keyboard.
- Take regular breaks during work periods
- Do stretching exercises to loosen up those wrists
- Lose some weight if you are overweight.