In Korea, some people may experience a “tingling sensation” (저리다, jer-ri-da) in their hands. Some though, when they feel this sensation in their hands, think they might have “hemiplegia” (weakness or sensory symptoms happening on one side of the body) or are on the verge of developing one.
Two urban myths in Korea that I commonly come across as a doctor are 1) when you have a tingling sensation of the hand, you might have a stroke, 2) if you have a stiff neck it is because of high blood pressure and again you are in danger of having a stroke.
Funny? Nope, and especially not to the people who come to my clinic suffering from the above-mentioned symptoms.
I once had the experience of a middle aged woman who came into the clinic with a tingling hand. The day she came was the day that her youngest son graduated from university, and she thought she had done what she was supposed to do “in this lifetime” and that she was ready to confront her disease — supposedly stroke.
However, her symptom was a commonly observed tingling sensation in the hand, and after a rather simple diagnostic evaluation, I told her that it was not an impending stroke, but a simple compression of the hand that could be treated. At hearing this, she burst into tears, and thanked me tremendously.
The “state” I am trying to mention in this column is the “tingling” of the hand, called carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). A numbness or burning sensation in the thumb and fingers, in particular the index and middle fingers, pain in the hands or wrists, and loss of grip strength may all point to the same condition.
There is a nerve going through to the fingers 1,2,3 and partially to 4, called the median nerve. The remaining parts of the fingers and hand is covered by other nerves, that would be the ulnar and radial nerve. When there is compression on the median nerve, you might feel the symptoms mentioned above.
In a more serious state where there is no treatment, people may develop atrophy to the inner muscles of the hand, especially the muscle called the Adductor Pollicis Brevis.
The reason for the development of CTS is unknown, but I have seen people that do a lot of strenuous work using their hands, so perhaps this is one of the (major) causes. Women who cook and do dishes in restaurants, the women divers of Jeju (the haenyeo) commonly have this disease.
This state can be diagnosed using Ultrasonongraphy — where we can observe the compression of the nerve. Also Eletromyography is another way of examining the condition intensively, although in many cases, the symptoms itself may be sufficient enough for diagnosis.
The treatment varies, from exercise, to medication, steroid injections and in some cases, surgery. If there is a “repetitive routine” to your work, especially with your hands, make sure these and your wrists are positioned in a comfortable manner.
Some exercises that I illustrated below, will be quite useful for the people with the disease, but also good even if you don’t have CTS.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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