It is not often that private rheumatology and carpal tunnel syndrome are mentioned in the same sentence. As a private rheumatologist in London, I specialise in rheumatological conditions. But I also treat patients suffering from other types of chronic pain – including the pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which pain is caused by a pinched nerve. The specific nerve in question is the median nerve. It passes through a narrow passage in the bones known as the carpal tunnel. When the median nerve is compressed inside that tunnel, the result can be pain, numbness, and even weakness in the hand and wrist.
It is not necessary to see a doctor for carpal tunnel if pain is manageable on your own. Below are some self-help tips for carpal tunnel sufferers, tips that are shared by experts throughout the UK. If these tips either don’t work for you or you ever reach a point in which your pain is unmanageable, by all means come and see me in my London office.
Wear a Splint
A wrist splint, or brace if you prefer, is designed to hold the wrist in a straight position. Wearing a splint on a daily basis is often enough to relieve carpal tunnel pain in the short term. For some patients, it ends up being a long-term solution as well. It may or may not work for you.
The idea behind wearing a splint is to prevent excess movement in the wrist. Keeping everything straight and aligned should relieve pressure on the median nerve. Over time, swelling abates and the carpal tunnel opens back up again.
Adopt Lifestyle Changes
In most diagnosed cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, lifestyle factors are involved. They may not be the entire cause of the syndrome, but they certainly contribute. For example, working all day at a desktop computer can cause or aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome by forcing the wrist to be constantly bent over a keyboard.
Just changing the position of the keyboard can help. If you are using a smaller computer mouse, transitioning to a larger mouse that is easier to grip might also help. At any rate, the idea here is to see if you can identify lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your pain. Once identified, you can make the necessary modifications.
Carpal tunnel pain can be managed with over-the-counter analgesics. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are all good candidates. Just note that analgesics do not actually solve the underlying problem causing the pain. They only offer temporary pain relief. Combining analgesics with lifestyle changes and a wrist splint could ultimately do the trick for you.
When to See a Doctor
A typical carpal tunnel patient doesn’t need ongoing medical intervention to find relief. So, when should you see a doctor? The NHS recommends a doctor visit if symptoms seem to be getting worse or have not abated enough to make a difference. You might also consider seeing a doctor if you have tried a number of self-care options without realising any relief.
A doctor could recommend steroid injections as a starting point. If these don’t provide sufficient relief, surgery is always a possibility. Thankfully, most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome never go that far.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, while painful, doesn’t represent a medical emergency. Most people can treat it at home themselves. If you have tried to do so and failed to find relief, it may be time to see a doctor. Note that my London office is accepting new patients.
Article by Dr. Naveen Bhadauria