From intricate art creations to work-related tasks to those everyday repetitive motions of scrolling through your phone — our hands do more delicate work than we realize.
While most of these activities seem relatively safe, they can actually lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the main nerve that runs through the hand — also called the median nerve — is compressed as it travels through the wrist.
It can cause symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the hands, a burning sensation and reduced dexterity. If left untreated, it can even cause permanent damage including weakness or loss of feeling in the hand and may need surgery to correct.
There are several ways to treat and prevent CTS such as avoiding repetitive motions, taking breaks from long hours of typing, regular stretching or massage of the hands and making sure you are using the proper hand placement and posture if you spend hours a day at a desk.
Treatment of CTS with splints and braces
While there are many treatments for CTS — such as physical therapy and surgery — sometimes using braces or splints is an option. CTS can be painful and most patients want quick relief from the pain.
The splint is worn over the hand to help support and stabilize the wrist. It puts the wrist in a position that places the least amount of pressure on the median nerve, reducing pain and further injury.
Splints are not a cure for CTS, but they can give temporary relief of pain and other symptoms. They also come in two main types including working splints and resting splints.
Working splints are typically used during the daytime to help keep your wrists in the proper position while working or other daytime tasks. Resting splints, sometimes known as nighttime splints, reduce pressure on the median nerve and help relieve pain if you have slept with your wrists in an awkward or damaging position.
The pros of using splints include the fact that no drugs are involved, they can be worn during pregnancy, they are a non-surgical option and are a low-cost option.
The main con of splinting is that it is not a cure for CTS. They are typically only useful when symptoms are mild and can interfere with some activities that require a strong grip which include driving.
While less rigid than a splint, a brace can also provide some relief. Although you may still notice the tingling or numbness.
The pros of using a brace are that they are easily accessible and available at most drug stores. They are less restricting than splints — but like a splint, it may help to wear them during your daily activities and at night to keep your CTS symptoms from flaring up.
The biggest con is that they are less supportive than a splint. While they are easily accessible, finding a brace that fits you properly where it can work at its optimal level may be difficult. While available in several sizes, it is sort of a one size fits all mentality.
Both splints and braces can be specifically designed for your body through your healthcare provider, but a custom brace or splint can be cost prohibitive if you do not have insurance or if your plan does not cover it as a medical device.
To learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome treatments or to find an orthopedic specialist near you, please call 770-214-CARE (2273) at any time or visit TannerOrtho.org.