Carpal Tunnel Syndrome- causes, symptoms & treatment
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a painful condition of one or both hands, caused by pressure on the median nerve
- The median nerve runs down the arm and into the hand. It controls movement and sensation in the thumb, index and maybe middle finger.
- The carpal tunnel is a passage in your wrist made of bones and ligaments- the median nerve pass from the arm into the hand by passing through the carpal tunnel, along with several tendons that control hand movements.
- If there is increased pressure in this tunnel for any reason, it can press on the median nerve and cause symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The typical symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include:
- Burning discomfort or pain in the palm and/or thumb
- Tingling or numbness in the hand
- These symptoms are often worse at night, when your hand is in a resting position
What are the causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Frequently there are no obvious reasons or causes for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome , but injury, inflammation, swelling and fluid retention may be underlying triggers. Sometimes the following may be factors:
- Repetitive strain due to a manual job, typing etc
- Arthritis- e.g. rheumatoid arthritis
How is Carpal Tunnel syndrome diagnosed?
- A doctor can often make the diagnosis based on the typical symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- An examination may give further clues- the doctor may tap on the wrist/base of your palm to see if it causes increased pins and needles in your hand (Tinel’s test) and/or ask you to stretch your wrist into a particular flexed position (Phalen’s test)
- Sometimes Nerve Conduction Studies may be performed- these will show that the median nerve is not functioning properly as it passes beyond the carpal tunnel.
- It’s important to have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome diagnosed and treated , as it can get worse over time, leading to long term problems with movement and sensation in the hand.
What is the treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- If it is related to an underlying cause (see causes above), getting treatment for that issue may get rid of the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- If it’s related to pregnancy, it’ll usually get better after the baby is born
- It may help to avoid manual activity or work that triggers it, where possible
- Weight loss may help if obesity is an issue
- A physiotherapist can give helpful advice about how to position your wrists, and may start you on a stretching/exercise program
- Seeing an occupational therapist and getting a splint for the wrist may improve symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, particularly at night.
- Medications such as anti-inflammatories may give some relief, if there is arthritis/inflammation present.
- Steroid injections into the carpal tunnel area
- Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery ( if all else has failed)