Sugaring hair removal has become very popular. In this technique, a sugar paste is applied to the skin. The hair sticks to it, is trapped in the sugar paste, and is removed from its roots with a fast yanking movement of the esthetician’s hand. The whole process of sugaring is completed with one hand, which is why repetitive yanking movements of the hand put a great deal of pressure on the wrist joint, creating a high risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
In the front side of the wrist, there are bones and other anatomical elements that form a canal called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve, one of the main nerves of the hand, passes through this canal. The median nerve is a sensory and motor nerve, meaning it transfers sensory signals from the hand to the brain, and the brain controls the movements of some of the muscles of the hand via this nerve. The median nerve supplies the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.
If for any reason the carpal tunnel becomes narrower, it puts pressure on the median nerve, deteriorating the sensory perceptions and motion of the area that is innervated by the nerve. A narrowing of the carpal tunnel, along with related signs and symptoms, is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms
The sensory deterioration of the nerve presents itself with tingling, numbness, and pain and motor deficits shown in decreased grip strength, weakness, and loss of muscle mass of the affected area. The signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are accumulative, which means that over time, they are added to each other. Pain, for instance, will be added to numbness and tingling, and muscle weakness will be added to sensory deficits.
Awaking with pain in the hand is another sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. Most people tend to
bend their wrists during the night while they are sleeping. This puts more pressure on the median nerve, waking them in the middle of the night.
At the beginning stages of carpal tunnel syndrome, signs and symptoms may be overlooked and ignored. Muscle weakness may be considered to be due to tiredness and numbness from hard work. You may hate to come to work or hate your job because, whenever you are working, you have physical problems and your subconscious tries to avoid the situations that make you uncomfortable. You may not even be aware that the reason you dread your job is because carpal tunnel syndrome limits you.
Three Tests for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Three different tests can help detect if your median nerve is under pressure and if you are getting carpal tunnel syndrome:
In this test, hold both hands in a position that puts pressure on the median nerve. If the nerve is already under mild or moderate pressure, with a little more pressure, you will feel the signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Hold the back of both hands together and downward in front of your chest for a minute or two. If you feel any tingling, numbness, or pain in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, or half of your ring finger, it is an indication that your median nerve is under pressure and you need to see your doctor. This test puts pressure on the median nerve; therefore, after five minutes or so, even a healthy person will notice what seems like carpal tunnel syndrome, and by then, the pain and other signs are normal.
This test detects the hyperactivity of the median nerve. If the nerve is under pressure, it becomes sensitive to tapping. For this test, tap the front side of your wrist with one or two fingers. If you feel tingling or a sharp shock in your fingers, it could be a sign of pressure on the median nerve and, thus, carpal tunnel syndrome. If your Tinel’s test is positive, you ought to see your doctor.
Thenar Eminence Atrophy Test
The bulky muscle at the palm and base of the thumb is called “thenar eminence.” Pressure on the median nerve for a long time and limitation of thumb movement make it weak and shrink over time.
If you hold two hands next to each other, do you notice one of them is skinnier than the other in the thenar eminence area? If so, with or without other signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, it is a warning sign to visit your doctor.
Genetics play a major role in carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people genetically have narrower carpal tunnels, or their bodies are more susceptible to inflammation. Repetitive movements like typing, writing, computer gaming, sports, and especially some kind of stress (load) on the wrist, like sugaring hair removals, are among the major causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. These repetitive movements create inflammation, thickness, and swelling in the carpal tunnel. If the canal is already narrowed due to genetics or other conditions, like obesity, then there is a very high chance of getting carpal tunnel syndrome.
In sugaring hair removals, estheticians use a lot of pressure on their fingers and wrist to apply the sugar paste, and even worse, they have to remove the sugar strip off of the skin in quick yanking movements. This all puts significant pressure on the canal and causes inflammation and swelling inside the carpal tunnel.
Pregnancy, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity are among other conditions that increase the chance of carpal tunnel syndrome. For example, water retention during pregnancy makes the carpal tunnel narrower and puts more pressure on the median nerve. The combination of two or more conditions increases the risk. Being overweight and doing sugaring hair removals, for instance, adds up to a higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, even at an early age.
Overall, 3-6% of the adult population get carpal tunnel syndrome, and women get this disease 2-3 times more than men. This is significant because the majority of estheticians who do sugaring hair removals are female.
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There is no definitive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. If your body is genetically prone to it, there is no way to change it. There are several remedies, however, to eliminate the inflammation and subside the signs and symptoms.
Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen, naproxen, and local injections of corticosteroids can reduce the inflammation. Acupuncture, physiotherapy, and other alternative medicines can also help to reduce inflammation of the carpal tunnel. Furthermore, some specialized wrist braces hold the hands in a neutral position during the day and night to reduce the bending of the wrist and put extra pressure on the median nerve.
These are all temporary, though, and no medicine or physical therapy can permanently help if you continue doing the activity that caused carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place. If all medical and physical treatments fail, and there is still pain and discomfort, the last remedy is surgery. The outcome of surgery is not always what we expect; sometimes the signs and symptoms may continue even after surgery. Whenever there is pressure on a nerve for a long time, even by decompressing the nerve, pain and discomfort may persist.
Sugaring and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you are an esthetician who has carpal tunnel syndrome or is prone to it, you might think twice if you want to continue your job as a sugaring expert. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an annoying and limiting disease that can affect your professional and personal life. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do if your body is prone to carpal tunnel syndrome, beyond prevention.
If you are a salon owner and have an esthetician on your team that suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, or may be in the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s probably best to change their job position or have them work in shorter shifts.
Carpal tunnel syndrome and sugaring hair removals are not a good combination and should be avoided to protect one’s personal and professional health.