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What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome, also referred to as median nerve compression, is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand and arm.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the compression of the median nerve of the wrist. The median nerve is one of the major nerves of the hand. It runs along the length of your arm and goes through a small passage called the carpal tunnel in your wrist and ends in your hand. It primarily functions to control the functionality of the hand, especially the movement and feeling of all the fingers, except the little finger.
Women are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are felt more at night, awakening the patients from sleep. Now, how to sleep with carpal tunnel syndrome? There are a few best sleeping positions that may help deal with the condition.
Causes- An Overview
Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are;
- Carpal tunnel may be small or there can be anatomical changes in the space for the nerve which can be hereditary.
- Repetitive hand use for activities like typing, driving, knitting
- Performing activities that involve the extension of the hand and wrist for a long period
- The health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and trauma.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy.
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Symptoms- An Overview
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include;
- Pain, numbness, tingling, and burning sensation in fingers and hands.
- Pain or tingling sensation that can extend to the forearm toward the shoulder.
- A feeling of swelling in fingers and clumsiness.
- Difficulty in performing fine movements like buttoning your clothes.
- Decreased grip resulting in dropping things.
These symptoms or sensations are felt more at night, which is related to the position of the wrist and/or fluid accumulation around the wrist and hand while you lay flat.
The symptoms begin gradually, and you may find them come and go at first. But as the condition worsens, symptoms can occur often and persist for a long time.
Treatment- An Overview
Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome includes non-surgical and surgical methods.
Non-surgical treatments are usually the first line of treatment for less severe cases and allow you to perform daily activities. These include wearing a wrist splint while you sleep at night, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, and cortisone injections. Other treatments include changes to your environment, such as modifications in the workplace to decrease the symptoms.
Surgical treatment is recommended for more severe cases that do not respond to non-surgical methods and have very positive outcomes. Surgery involves increasing the size of the carpal tunnel. This decreases the pressure and compression of the nerves and tendons that pass through the tunnel. You must consult the doctor if the pain persists even after following non-surgical methods.
Best Sleeping Positions For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The preferred and best sleeping positions if you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome are;
1. Sleeping On Your Back
This position places less stress on the cervical spine, reducing the risk of nerve compression at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. If you keep your legs propped up, it helps by placing less pressure on the lumbar spine.
2. Sleeping On Your Side
If you prefer sleeping on your side, consider hugging a pillow or a body pillow to prevent getting into the fetal position that increases tunnel pressure.
Ways To Improve Sleep
1. Wear A Brace While Sleeping
If you have any signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, consider wearing a wrist brace while sleeping to help keep the wrist in a neutral position. Pressure in the carpal tunnel is reported to be the lowest when the wrist is in a near-neutral position.
2. Sleeping On Your Side
While sleeping on your side, placing a pillow in between the legs is beneficial as it supports the hip and spine alignment. Ensure that you have proper neck support that helps to keep your cervical spine in a neutral position.
3. Support Your Arms While You Sleep
The placement of your arms while sleeping is important while suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Avoid placing your arm underneath you or your pillow as it may worsen the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
4. Propping Your Arms Up
Consider propping your arms up on pillows while sleeping as it helps reduce tension and eases the pain. While sleeping on your side, ensure that the side affected by carpal tunnel syndrome is on top. Also, place a pillow in front of you in the most comfortable position to rest the affected hand on the pillow.
5. Keep Your Arm Straight
Bending your elbow may worsen the symptoms as it increases the compression on your nerve. Try to keep your elbow straight as much as possible throughout the night. You can wrap a towel around your elbow that makes it difficult to bend. This helps to train yourself to have your arm straight at night.
If you have had surgical treatment, you may want to know how to sleep after carpal tunnel surgery.
The first simple step is to elevate the operated hand/wrist above your heart level. This downhill path uses just gravity to help move the blood and fluid from your fingertips to your hearts.
While sleeping, consider using a pile of pillows, either beside you or on your chest, to help keep your hand and wrist in an elevated position.
Sleeping Positions To Avoid
These are sleeping positions that you must avoid when you have carpal tunnel syndrome troubling you;
1. The Fetal Position
This position, where your arms and legs curl into the body, will cause your wrist to bend, increasing the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. The fetal position also places pressure that causes nerve compression injuries at the elbow, shoulder, and cervical spine. This position neither provides adequate back and hip support.
2. On Your Stomach
This position increases the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome by placing more pressure on the wrists. It can also increase the risk of nerve compression injuries at the elbow and shoulder. Laying on the stomach may cause irritation to the neck, back, and spine.
Now, let us get back to "How to sleep with carpal tunnel syndrome?" whether you lay on your back, your stomach, or your side, the best sleeping position while suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome is the one that avoids strain or pressure on your wrists throughout the night.