...less medical jargon in a 'Quick Glance' format!
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common source of hand numbness and pain. The tendons in the wrist swell and put pressure on the median nerve, one of three major nerves responsible for supplying feeling in the hand. It is more common in women than men and affects up to 10 percent of the entire population.
. . . Anatomy
The carpal tunnel is a narrow, tunnel-like structure in the wrist. The bottom and sides of this tunnel are formed by wrist (carpal) bones. The top of the tunnel is covered by a strong band of connective tissue, called a ligament.
The median nerve travels from the forearm into the hand through this tunnel in the wrist. The tendons that bend the fingers and thumb also travel in this tunnel.
Symptoms usually begin gradually, without a specific injury.
Numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand are common.
An electric-like shocking feeling in the fingers or hand.
The thumb side of the hand is usually most involved.
Symptoms may occur at any time. Symptoms at night are common and may awaken you from sleep. During the day, symptoms frequently occur when holding something, like a phone, or when reading or driving. Moving or shaking the hands often helps decrease symptoms.
Sometimes strange sensations and pain will travel up the arm toward the shoulder. Symptoms initially come and go, but over time they may become constant. A feeling of clumsiness or weakness can make delicate motions, like buttoning buttons, difficult. These feelings may cause you to drop things. If the condition is very severe, muscles in the palm may become visibly wasted.
It is caused by increased pressure on a nerve entering the hand through the confined space of the carpal tunnel. There are many causes of carpal tunnel.
Heredity is the most important factor.
Hand use over time can play a role.
Repetitive motions of the hands or wrist; that is, when the same motion is repeated over and over again over a very long period of time.
Hormonal changes related to pregnancy and menopause.
Medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance.
If diagnosed and treated early, carpal tunnel syndrome can be relieved without surgery.
. . . Nonsurgical Treatment
Treatment often begins with a brace or splint worn at night to keep the wrist in a natural position. Splints can also be worn during activities that aggravate symptoms.
Simple medications can help decrease pain. These medications include anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.
Changing patterns of hand use to avoid positions and activities that aggravate the symptoms may be helpful.
A corticosteroid injection will often provide temporary relief, but symptoms may come back.
. . . Surgical Treatment
Surgery may be considered if carpal tunnel syndrome continues to bother you and you do not gain relief from nonsurgical treatments. The decision whether to have surgery is based mostly on the severity of the symptoms.
If the symptoms are severe and won't go away, your doctor may consider surgery.
In more-severe cases, surgery is considered sooner because other treatment options are less helpful.
In very severe cases, surgery may be recommended to prevent irreversible damage.