Carpal tunnel syndrome causes weakness in your hand. It is also called median nerve compression as it happens due to the pressure on the median nerve. This nerve runs the length of the arm, it goes to the carpal tunnel passage in your wrist and then to the fingers. It goes to all the fingers and thumb except the little finger. This nerve controls the movement of these fingers.
Carpal tunnel is a narrow passage whose floor and sides are formed by small bones called the carpal bones. This tunnel is located in the wrist. The pressure on the median nerve is created when the tunnel passage becomes narrow or the tissues in it start swelling. The swelling of these tissues crowds the nerve and creates pressure on it.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
Now, let us have a look at the symptoms of this syndrome.
- People having this syndrome will have weaknesses in their hands and have difficulty holding things.
- Having itching in the palm and fingers.
- Itching that moves up the arm.
- Having shock-like sensations in the fingers sometimes.
- Having numbness in the fingers and feel like they are falling asleep.
- Dropping things.
When the person having this syndrome wakes up in the morning, he/she will have numbness in his/her hand and have a tingling feeling running all the way from hand to shoulders. You will face difficulty holding things as soon as he picks up something.
You will feel like shaking your hand to get relieved from the numb feeling in the initial stages but after some time, numbness won’t go away even if you shake the hand the whole day. When this condition gets worse, you won’t be able to properly hold anything in your hand as the muscle strength would be low. You will also have muscle pain in your hand.
You will have less feeling in your fingers and when the condition deteriorates, one can’t even pinch anyone with the thumb and finger due to very little strength.
Symptoms are mostly seen more in the night time as many people sleep bending their wrists. If the symptoms are severe then they can wake you up in the sleep due to pain and numbness. In the morning, you will see the symptoms when you are holding something for a long time or doing some activity that involves your hand like reading books, driving, etc.
Now, let us know what are the causes of this syndrome. What leads to this problem? Some of the chief reasons for this problem are mentioned below.
- If you do repetitive motions like moving your wrist or do typing then there is a chance of building this syndrome.
- Obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis are the problems that can lead to this syndrome.
- Pregnancy: There are hormonal changes seen during pregnancy and that can cause the swelling of the tissues which will ultimately create pressure on the median nerve.
- Heredity is also a factor for this. The passage of the carpal tunnel can be smaller in some people and this can pass from generation to generation.
Some of the risk factors that lead to this syndrome are as follows:
- Women have more risk of getting this syndrome than men as they have smaller carpal tunnels.
- If you get your wrist fractured or dislocated.
- There is a lot of risk in the jobs where you move your arm, hand, or wrist again and again. Those jobs include the profession of hairstylist, musician, cashier, sewer, assembly line worker.
Now, let us have a look at the tests that you might need to do to figure out if you have this syndrome or not. Consult a doctor for this and they will let you know after diagnosing you if you face this syndrome or not. Physical examination by the doctor will involve the following things:
- Bend and hold the wrists to check numbness.
- Testing sensitivity in the fingertips with a special instrument.
- Checking weakness in the muscles.
- Pressing down points from where the median nerve passes to see if there is numbness.
Some of the tests that are conducted by the doctor to diagnose the situation are as follows:
- Imaging tests
X-rays or MRIs are conducted so that the doctors can know and have a detailed analysis of your bones and tissues.
- Nerve conduction studies
In this test, electrodes will be taped to your skin for measuring the signals in the nerves.
In this test, an electrode will be put into the muscle to monitor the electrical activity.
- Tinel sign
In this test, the doctor will tap the palm side of your wrist.
Now, after checking out symptoms, causes, and tests, let us have a look at the treatment of this syndrome. Treatment will differ based on the severity of the problem.
Take a Break in doing the repetitive motion
If this problem is occurring due to the repetitive motion that you do daily then you need to take a break for 10-15 minutes or more several times in the day. This will give a rest to your hand and wrist. If there is a chance of not doing this activity then you should stop it altogether.
If it is a part of your profession and you can’t stop it then at least take several breaks in the day and it will be a better situation for you. If you are having pain in your wrist then taking breaks will give you comfort and make the situation less severe.
Stretching exercises are good and can make your situation better. Consult your doctor for this and they will let you know the right exercises that you need to perform to improve your problem. There are nerve gliding exercises performed by patients and it helps the nerve to move better within the carpal tunnel.
Medications have to be on the list as any problem can be solved by taking the right medications. Your doctor will suggest some good anti-inflammatory drugs for this and that will help you improve the problem and reduce the pain.
Doctors may also suggest taking steroid injections. These injections are injected in your carpal tunnel and they are very helpful to relieve the pain and effects caused by this syndrome.
Wear a splint
Immobilization of your wrist is very necessary for this and that’s why patients have to wear a splint at night time. This won’t allow your wrist to do movements and that will give it a rest eventually helping you to control the numb feeling that you have. You will have a better sleep with this so wear a splint when you go to sleep.
Ultimate option: Carpal tunnel Surgery
Surgery is the ultimate solution to this problem. If the situation gets worse and you have a lot of pain and the hand has numbness the whole day then you should look out for surgery. In the surgery, your carpal tunnel size will be increased and it will help to release the pressure on the median nerve.
The best person to talk about this option is your doctor. He will let you know what are the pros and cons of getting surgery in your case and whether you should go for a surgery or look out for other treatment options.
After your surgery is done, you will have some minor pain and stiffness for some weeks. Improvement is seen in 2-3 months in some patients while it may take 6-8 months or even longer depending upon the condition of the problem.
You will have to wear the splint for several weeks after surgery and you will be allowed to do minor hand activities that are essential in your day-to-day life. You should avoid doing any activity that puts more pressure on your wrist.
If you have pain in your wrist for a long time after surgery is done then your doctor will recommend you go to a hand therapist who can help you get a speedy recovery.
What complications can you have if you don’t undergo treatment?
If you don’t go for a treatment and keep living with the syndrome then the situation can get worse. The worst condition is permanent muscle damage. So, it is better to diagnose the problem at an early stage when the symptoms start occurring and start the treatment as early as possible.
It might be possible that the syndrome disappears for some time and then it comes back again, this is also a possible scenario faced by many patients where they feel better and have less numb feelings but it starts back again after some days or so.
So, here was an overview of carpal tunnel syndrome, its symptoms, causes, and treatments. If you are seeing some early signs of the syndrome then get yourself diagnosed with a good doctor and start the treatment so that you can get back normal as soon as possible. For more information, visit Healthclubfinder.