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You've probably heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS for short, but do you really know what it is or what causes it? Read on, because you are about to find out.

The carpal tunnel is a small tunnel on the inside of the wrist that is surrounded by bones and ligaments. The tunnel is designed to protect the main nerve to your hand as well as all the tendons that move your fingers. When pressure is placed on that tunnel over a long period of time, you get pain, numbness, tingling and eventually weakness in the hand and wrist. Women are about 300% more likely to develop the condition than men, although they do suffer from it as well. It is one of the most common repetitive use injuries seen today.

One of the most common symptoms you might notice if you have CTS is a numbness or tingling sensation upon waking up in the morning, or in doing things like trying to grip the steering wheel in the car. Some people say they try to shake their hands out to relieve the tingling, but this usually doesn't work. Pain is also another symptom of CTS. The pain can radiate as far as the shoulder or down into the fingers and can be a sharp stabbing type of pain or a more constant pain. It's important to remember that if you have any of these symptoms you need to see a doctor, because if left untreated, you could suffer permanent damage to the nerves and muscles.

The most common treatments for CTS are wrist fixation, also called splinting, so that the tendons and nerves can rest and non-steroidal inflammatory analgesics (NSAID's) such as Ibuprofen. This method usually helps for a short time and the patient returns to normal occupation, but it is quite common for the problem to persist even after this treatment. Some people with CTS end up wearing the braces for years, either while they work or at night when they sleep. The problem with the drugs is that over time these drugs can cause ulcers, blood clotting issues, and kidney problems.

If the first treatment doesn't work, or the doctor determines that the case is more serious, he may prescribe steroid injections into the carpal tunnel. This can be quite painful as the needle has to penetrate into the tunnel. This treatment helps most patients for a period of several weeks to several months, but again the problem can persist. Since CTS is a repetitive use injury, unless the patient changes what they are doing that caused the problem if the first place, the injury will keep coming back.

The final option is surgery. The operation is usually carried out only in the most serious cases where the condition is debilitating and interferes with daily life. This surgery however doesn't have a very good success rate, only 50-70 percent of patients report that they are happy with the results and that the pain is gone.

Problems in the neck can mimic the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. So first be sure that the problem doesn't exist there. Natural medicine has, perhaps the most effective long term treatment available for CTS. Combinations of acupuncture or acupressure if the needles scare you, and massage with essential oils help loosen up the muscles and tendons and release the pinched nerve. Oils such as peppermint and wintergreen are helpful along with Sandalwood, Rosemary and Ginger. These same oils can be used if the problem originates in the neck. As always be sure to properly dilute your oils before applying them to the skin and consult an aromatherapist if you have questions.

In 1995, Deborah Gez created Moriah Herbs, and brought more than 30 years of experience to the field of herbal medicine. Moriah Herbs is a leader in aromatherapy, essential oils and herbal healing.

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Debbie Gez - EzineArticles Expert Author