It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes compressed or squeezed as it travels through a narrow passageway called the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a small, rigid structure located in the wrist, consisting of bones and a strong ligament that forms the roof. So, What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?.
The primary cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the narrowing of the carpal tunnel, which can happen due to a variety of factors. Repetitive hand and wrist movements, such as typing, using vibrating tools, or performing assembly line work, can contribute to the development of CTS. Other potential causes include wrist fractures, fluid retention, hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause, and certain underlying health conditions like arthritis or diabetes. In some cases, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can also be hereditary.
The compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel leads to a range of symptoms. The most common signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include pain, numbness, tingling, and a burning sensation in the hand, fingers, and thumb. These sensations often radiate from the wrist and may extend up the arm. Individuals with CTS may experience weakness in the affected hand, making it difficult to perform tasks that require fine motor skills or grip strength. They may also have a tendency to drop objects due to a weakened grip.
The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can vary in intensity and may worsen at night or during activities that involve repetitive flexing and extending of the wrist. Some individuals may find relief by shaking or massaging their hands. However, if left untreated, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can lead to chronic pain, muscle wasting, and a decreased ability to use the affected hand.
Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome involves a thorough examination by a healthcare professional. They will evaluate the medical history, conduct a physical examination, and may order additional tests, such as nerve conduction studies or electromyography, to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the condition.
Treatment options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome depend on the individual’s symptoms and the severity of the condition. Initially, non-surgical approaches are typically recommended. These may include wrist splints to immobilize the wrist, taking breaks during repetitive activities, applying cold packs to reduce inflammation, and using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief. Physical therapy exercises that focus on stretching and strengthening the hand and wrist may also be beneficial.
In more severe cases or when conservative measures fail to provide relief, surgery may be considered. Carpal tunnel release surgery involves cutting the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel to relieve pressure on the median nerve and create more space within the tunnel. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help manage Carpal Tunnel Syndrome effectively and alleviate symptoms, allowing individuals to regain function and improve their quality of life.