A Look at Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the hands and arms. A pinched nerve in the wrist causes this condition, and it can cause numbness and tingling in the arm and hand. The carpal tunnel is a narrow tunnel in the wrist that protects the main nerve of the hand and the tendons that provide mobility and flexibility of the fingers. If that nerve is compressed, the nerve will produce feelings of tingling, numbness, and weakness.

Carpal tunnel syndrome tends to start with the numbness and tingling in certain fingers such as you middle, thumb, or index fingers that comes and goes. This sensation may occur when you are using your hand. Many people would shake their hands in order to get rid of the numbness or discomfort in the hands. Over time, the numbness would be constant. People with carpal tunnel would also experience weakness in the hands and would sometimes drop items due to the pinching muscles. If carpal tunnel is left untreated, it can lead to muscle damage.

           There are many factors that increase the chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Having a wrist dislocation or fracture may create a change in pressure in the carpal tunnel, increasing the chances for median nerve damage. Women are also more likely to have this condition because of the smaller carpal tunnel. Furthermore, if you have fluid retention, specifically during menopause of pregnancy, this can increase the pressure on the median nerve as well.

If you have certain medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, menopause, obesity, kidney failure, or thyroid disorders, there is an increase of risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. Another factor that can increase the chances of developing this disease is working with vibrating tools or repetitive wrist movement for a long period of time.

This constant flexing of the risk repeatedly can create pressure on the median nerve. Some scientists also looked into whether or not carpal tunnel syndrome is related to extensive computer use.

           In order to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, the doctor may run a few different tests such as a physical exam on the hand, an x-ray that can rule out any other wrist pain such as a fracture or arthritis, an electromyogram that evaluates the muscles of the arm and hand, and a nerve conduction study that shocks the median nerve.

           There are many ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome depending on the severity of the condition. Those who have mild symptoms can easily treat their wrist discomfort and pain by frequently resting their arms, avoiding any strenuous physical activity and movements of the arms, and applying ice packs if there is swelling. If these do not provide relief in weeks, you may have a more severe form of carpal tunnel syndrome. In this case, one would have to go to the doctor for other options such as medications, wrist splinting, and surgery.

Wrist splinting can relieve the tingling and numbness, especially at night. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen provides temporary pain relief of carpal tunnel syndrome. Corticosteroid injections can decrease in swelling and inflammation of the median nerve and have been found to be effective. Surgery is an option if the carpal tunnel symptoms are severe, extremely painful, and showed to progress after nonsurgical treatment. Carpal tunnel surgery relieves the pressure on the median nerve by severing the ligament producing the pressure that is irritating the nerve. This can be done by either endoscopic surgery or open surgery.

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