What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

on Monday, 12 March 2012.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Important to know because the early it is diagnosed and treated the better the results of treatment. Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain, tingling, and weakness in your hand because of pressure on the median nerve in your wrist.

The median nerve and several tendons run through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. This pressure can come from swelling or anything that makes the carpal tunnel smaller. Things that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome include:

• Making the same hand movements over and over, especially if the wrist is bent down (your hands lower than your wrists), or making the same wrist movements over and over.

• Wrist injuries and bone spurs.

• Smoking.

• Pregnancy.

• Obesity.

• Illnesses such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause tingling, numbness, weakness, and/or pain in the fingers or hand. Some people may have pain in their arm between their hand and their elbow.

Symptoms most often occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. If you have problems with your other fingers but your little finger is fine, this may be a sign that you have carpal tunnel syndrome.

You may first notice symptoms at night. Waking up and shaking your hands to wake them up is often a symptom.

How do you diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome ?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your health and activities. EMG and Nerve Conduction Studies (NCVs) test to find out how the median nerve is working., is it compressed and if so how much compression there is. It is a test of how the nerve and muscles are working. Symptoms can vary in type, severity and frequency, making EMG testing very helpful.

How is it treated?

The sooner you start treatment, the better your chances of stopping symptoms and preventing long-term damage to the nerve.

You can do a few things at home to help your hand and wrist feel better:

• Stop activities that cause numbness and pain. Rest your wrist longer between activities.

• Ice your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes 1 or 2 times an hour. Try using either oral or topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce swelling.

• Wear a wrist splint at night to keep your wrist in a neutral position. This takes pressure off your median nerve. Your wrist is in a neutral position when it is straight or only slightly bent..

• Proper ergonomic set up of your workstation. Wrist guard for your keyboard and nest for your mouse.

• Possible corticosteroid injection.

• Home Exercises

• Physical therapy

Surgery is necessary when symptoms cannot be controlled with conservative methods, progression of symptoms, and if severe nerve and muscle damage has occurred. The early it is diagnosed and treated the better response to treatments.

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