Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when the median nerve in your wrist becomes irritated. This nerve controls your thumb, middle, ring, and index fingers. This nerve also controls the muscles of your thumb. It might be crushed, causing symptoms like numbness or tingling.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow, curved channel that runs through your wrist. Your wrist bones and the thick transverse ligament on top form the carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by anything that decreases space in the canal or increases pressure.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes
This syndrome arises when the median nerve, which runs through your wrist, becomes squeezed. It’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause, as there are many possible causes. This is likely due to a number of factors. You are more likely to get it if you have the following:
- Being overweight
- An underactive thyroid
- This may be due to hormonal changes and fluid accumulation during pregnancy.
- A wrist fracture is an example of an injury to the wrist.
- Repeatedly flexing or extending your wrist (bending it forwards or rearwards) or doing repetitive activities in this position.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- A tumor or growth that could press on your nerves or narrow your carpal tunnel
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
The symptoms of carpal tunnel tend to affect the thumb and fingers, except for your little finger. Symptoms can include:
- A tingling sensation or pins and Needles
- Weakness and difficulty in gripping
- Pain or burning feelings
Carpal tunnel syndrome can affect either hands or only one. The symptoms can affect the whole hand and even spread to your arm. Your symptoms might be mild initially but may get worse over time. Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur at any time, but it is more common at night. Certain activities throughout the day might also set up symptoms.
Diagnosis For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Your GP may ask about your medical history and symptoms. Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They will examine your hands carefully, looking for symptoms such as swelling and muscle loss. Also, they’ll check your thumb and fingers for sensation. You may be requested to perform a few simple tests in order to identify your symptoms. They may include:
- Asking you to bend your wrist while your palm is facing your forearm
- Taping or pressing on your median nerve inside your wrist
- The ligament that spans the carpal tunnel on your wrist can be pushed.
Test your nerve conduction – This can reveal the extent of any damage you may have to your median nervous system.
Ultrasound – This allows your doctor to see inside your wrist and may help determine if you have an underlying condition. South Valley Neurology specializes in diagnosing and treating a range of neurological disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome, providing expert care and innovative solutions for patients experiencing hand and wrist pain.
Self-Help For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
You may be able to do something about your symptoms. Avoid any activities that trigger your symptoms. You may find it helpful to change how you perform these activities or reduce the frequency with which you do them. Losing weight can help reduce symptoms if you are overweight.
Speak to your manager or occupational health department if there is one. You may be able to get help from them with a change in your work environment or temporary changes to your duties. They may be able to provide you with a different type of keyboard or wrist rests.
Treatment For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is not always treated. Some people’s symptoms will improve by themselves within six months. It’s more likely to happen if you are under 30 and if the symptoms are caused by pregnancy. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be improved by treating any underlying conditions such as arthritis.
The wrist splints will help you to maintain your wrist in a straight position and relieve pressure on the compressed nerve. It can be especially helpful for nighttime symptoms. You will be advised by your doctor to wear wrist braces at night for six weeks. Splints can be worn during the day, but they may get in your way.
Your GP might offer you a steroid shot into your carpal canal to relieve the pain. This treatment may be available at your GP’s surgery, or you may have to go to a specialist.
Many people find that steroid injections are effective, but the effects can take several weeks to be fully felt. Not everyone can benefit from them. After a time, they can wear off, and symptoms may return. You may be able to have another injection if your symptoms return, but this is not always effective.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Your GP will refer you to a local musculoskeletal specialist if your symptoms are severe and other treatments don’t work. The doctor will examine you and determine if carpal tunnel surgery is an option.
The surgery is typically performed as an outpatient under local sedation. You can have your procedure done and then go home the same day. You won’t feel pain because the area will be numb. This procedure involves cutting the ligament that is part of your wrist’s carpal tunnel. The pressure will be relieved on the median nerve. This method is generally effective, with a high rate of success. Nine out of 10 people report that their symptoms have improved. There are risks with any surgery. You may also experience a recurrence of your symptoms after surgery. You should discuss this with your doctor to determine if surgery is right for you.