Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Bound by bones and ligaments, the carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway — about as big around as your thumb — located on the palm side of your wrist. This tunnel protects a main nerve of your hand and the nine tendons that bend your fingers. Pressure placed on the median nerve produces the numbness and pain which result to hand weakness that is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

In some cases, no direct cause of the syndrome can be identified. Most likely, the disorder is due to a congenital predisposition when the carpal tunnel is simply smaller in some people than in others. However, the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is especially common in those performing repetitive tasks on assembly lines.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Although it might seem that carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition born from long hours spent working on a computer keyboard, carpal tunnel syndrome actually has numerous causes. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful progressive condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist. Bound by bones and ligaments, the carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway — about as big around as your thumb — located on the palm side of your wrist. This tunnel protects a main nerve of your hand and the nine tendons that bend your fingers.

Pressure placed on the median nerve produces the numbness and pain which result to hand weakness that is known as carpal tunnel syndrome. In some cases, no direct cause of the syndrome can be identified. Most likely, the disorder is due to a congenital predisposition when the carpal tunnel is simply smaller in some people than in others. However, the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is especially common in those performing repetitive tasks on assembly lines.

What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Symptoms usually start gradually with pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, which radiates up the arm. As symptoms worsen, people might feel tingling during the day, and decreased grip strength that makes it difficult for a person to make a fist, grasp small objects or even perform basic manual tasks.

Other common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:

  • Tingling or numbness in your fingers or hand, only on 4 of your fingers except your little finger. This sensation often occurs while holding a steering wheel, phone or newspaper or upon awakening. Many people “shake out” their hands to try to relieve their symptoms. As the disorder progresses, the numb feeling may become constant.
  • Pain radiating or extending from the wrist that moves up to the arms and shoulder or shoots back down to your palm or fingers after forceful or repetitive use. The pain usually occurs on the palm side of your forearm.
  • A sense of weakness in your hands and a tendency lose your grip and to drop objects.

Are there tests to determine if I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Confirming whether a patient has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome usually requires performing specific tests of nerve function. Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS) and Electromyography (EMG) testing are procedures which evaluate how well the nerves of the wrist carry electrical signals. This information can help determine the extent of nerve damage (if any) and how best to treat the condition.[/wptabcontent]

What are my treatment options?

Fortunately, for most people who develop carpal tunnel syndrome, proper treatment usually will relieve the pain and numbness. The result is the restoration of the normal use of their wrists and hands. If the condition is left untreated, severe nerve and muscle damage can occur. Symptoms can often be relieved without surgery.

Here are some common treatments to relieve the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

  • Change of hand use patterns
  • Keeping the wrist on a splint
  • Use of anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Treatment according to injuries

When symptoms are severe or do not improve, surgery may be needed to make more room for the nerve in the wrist. Pressure on the nerve is decreased by cutting the ligament that forms the “roof” of the carpal tunnel on the palm side of the hand. The numbness and tingling may disappear quickly or slowly. The symptoms may not go away completely after surgery, especially in severe cases.

If you have persistent signs and symptoms that might be due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that interfere with your normal activities including sleep, call your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mir.

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