Man with painful hand before visiting a hand therapist

My hands are numb, is it Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Many people automatically think of carpal tunnel syndrome as the main cause of hand tingling and numbness. There is a valid reason for this. The median nerve travels through a small tunnel on the inside of the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This nerve supplies sensation and strength to specific parts of the hand. With overuse of your hand, inflammation and swelling can cause compression of the nerve in the tunnel leading to tingling and numbness.

What else may be causing my hand numbness?

But while carpal tunnel syndrome is a common cause of numbness in the hand it is not the only cause. Poor posture can also be a major contributor to hand numbness and tingling. The nerves that supply sensation to the hand initially come from the spine. The spine is made up of stacked blocks of bone called vertebrae. Nerves exit between the vertebrae and branch off to supply sensation and strength to your arm and hand. Activities such as prolonged sitting can cause a head forward posture. This is when your shoulders slump forward and your chin pokes out. This may sound familiar to you. This posture can compress the spinal nerves in your neck leading to numbness in the arm and hand.

Luckily there are some good ways to improve your posture and reduce the possibility of the nerves being affected.

Making sure you have regular breaks in prolonged sitting, for example when on the computer at work. This can help improve posture and take pressure of the vertebrae and spinal nerves. They don’t need to be very long, but just enough to break up the sustained posture.

Having a suitable work set up is also really important. If your chair height is not correct or your computer monitor is too low, you may have to change your posture to allow for this. When doing this for periods of time it can put pressure on the vertebrae and spinal nerves leading to numbness in the hands. Therefore, it is important to get this correct, especially with so many people working from home at the moment.

Amber demonstrates some key points when setting up your computer at home.

There are some simple postural exercises that can help. Exercises like pulling your shoulders back by squeezing your shoulder blades together can be helpful. Also correcting the head forward position by pulling the chin back, like you are giving yourself a double chin. These can often be done while having a small break in your seated position at work.

Gentle and regular stretching of the chest and forearms can also be helpful to correct poor shoulder posture and forearm tightness.

As always there are multiple other medical conditions which can cause numbness in the hands so it is important to get an accurate assessment from your health practitioner.

Book an appointment today with one of our physiotherapists or occupational therapists

 

For more information, call us directly on 03 9458 5166

By Greg Usherwood