What is a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that causes numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the hand and wrist. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, becomes compressed or pinched as it passes through the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist formed by bones and a ligament.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

  1. Repetitive hand and wrist movements: Performing repetitive tasks with the hands and wrists, such as typing, using a computer mouse, or assembly line work, can contribute to the development of CTS.
  2. Wrist injury: Fractures, sprains, or dislocations of the wrist can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
  3. Certain medical conditions: Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and pregnancy can be associated with an increased risk of CTS.
  4. Anatomic factors: Some people may have a narrower carpal tunnel or other anatomical variations that make them more susceptible to nerve compression.

What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome often start gradually and may include:

  1. Numbness and tingling: Usually affecting the thumb, index, middle, and part of the ring finger.
  2. Hand and wrist pain: Pain may radiate up the arm or down into the fingers.
  3. Weakness: Weakened grip strength and difficulty holding objects.
  4. Sensation changes: The affected hand may feel swollen or puffy, even though there is no visible swelling.
  5. Worsening at night: Symptoms often worsen during the night, leading to disturbed sleep.

What are the Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

  1. Rest and activity modification: Avoiding or reducing activities that aggravate symptoms can provide relief.
  2. Wrist splints: Wearing a wrist splint at night can help keep the wrist in a neutral position and alleviate pressure on the median nerve.
  3. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  4. Corticosteroid injections: Injections of corticosteroids into the carpal tunnel can help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.
  5. Physical therapy: Specific exercises can strengthen the wrist and hand muscles, improving flexibility and reducing symptoms.
  6. Ergonomic modifications: Making adjustments to workstations and tools can help prevent strain on the wrists.
  7. Surgery: In cases of severe or persistent symptoms that don’t respond to conservative treatments, carpal tunnel release surgery may be recommended. This procedure involves cutting the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel to relieve pressure on the median nerve.

Early diagnosis and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome are essential to prevent further nerve damage and improve the chances of successful treatment. If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome or are experiencing symptoms consistent with CTS, consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and appropriate management.