Burning pain in hand could be carpal tunnel

At times one suffers from burning pain in half or full hand and even up to arm and shoulder. The pain might be severe enough to awaken a person from sleep. This pain occurs due to ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’.

At times one suffers from burning pain in half or full hand and even up to arm and shoulder. The pain might be severe enough to awaken a person from sleep. This pain occurs due to ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’.

Carpal tunnel is the portion at the base of the hand (wrist) where the tendon of the flexor muscles of the hand along with small bones of hands are located. The pain occurs due to compression of median nerve.

It occurs because of repetitive movements of hands such as occurs during working on computers, cutting, writing for long hours, among other activities.   One may develop it after bed-making also, particularly if heavy mattresses have to be moved or tucked into.

As such, any gender can be affected by this syndrome. But women suffer three times more than men and that too more  in middle age. The carpal tunnel of women is also small anatomically as compared to men, hence  subjected to stress more readily.

The problem usually starts after a person has been doing some work involving repetitive movements of hands   for many years, mostly in middle years of one’s life. With time and continuation of the same work, symptoms increase in severity. 

Along with pain, one can feel abnormal sensations in the affected part, which may swell and become numb.

These symptoms may last for a few minutes to an hour or so. But overall, they are inconveniencing to the affected. The working of a person is also hampered by the recurrent pain.

Other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, muscular-skeletal stress, osteoporosis, trauma, disease of the blood vessels supplying blood to the limbs, etc., if present, aggravate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be easily diagnosed by the typical features. It can be differentiated from other conditions causing similar symptoms by  tests like electrophysiological studies of the nerve and its conduction. 

Splinting of the affected hand provides much respite in the pain, in carpal tunnel syndrome. Local injection of corticosteroids are also used to provide relief.

Absolute treatment consists of surgery where the carpal tunnel is opened up and enlarged which gives much relief to the patient. But this is a major surgery associated with  its  potential hazards. Therefore, once the features develop, one should try to prevent aggravating it.

Good nutritious food abundant in vitamins B1, B6 and B12 will keep the nerves of the body strong and help in minimising the damage caused to the nerve as in carpal tunnel syndrome. Whole grains and cereals, meat products, nuts, etc, are helpful in this regard.

While doing work involving movements of the hands, try to give pauses   of few minutes to the hands. Regular exercises of the joints of hands will also be useful.

Dr Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital

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