Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Summary of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The carpal tunnel is a tunnel that supports the tendons and nerves passing from the wrist to the hand. If the tunnel space is reduced, this causes pressure on the nerves, which can develop into pain and weakness in the hand. Repetitive and excessive use of the wrist or hand is often the cause.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome FAQ's
The carpal tunnel is a tunnel located on the palm side of the wrist, providing a protective barrier around the tendons that bend your fingers and wrist. One of the most important nerves is called the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when this median nerve is put under pressure, resulting in pain and weakness of the thumb and first three fingers.
The symptoms vary depending on the pressure being placed on the median nerve from within the carpal tunnel. Symptoms are often worst at night and first thing in the morning, and can be eased by either raising or dropping the hand. Aching may travel up the arm and into the neck in some cases, and patients may see a slight discolouration of the skin on their hand.
Common symptoms in minor injuries are pins and needles, tingling and numbing sensations in the thumb and first three fingers. If the pressure continues to increase then the pain may develop and the hand could become weak – affective the patient’s ability to move their hand normally.
Recovery time is dependent on the severity of the injury, how long the condition has been a problem and your response to treatment. It could range from weeks to months depending on these factors, though nerve damage may reveal that full recovery is unlikely.
The carpal tunnel is a thin tube and so any swelling will inevitably create some pressure on the median nerve to an extent. The swelling may also occur through inflammation of the other tendons within the carpal tunnel, generally caused by repetitive tasks such as manual work involving vibrating tools. Other causes of carpal tunnel could be obesity, arthritis in the wrist, pregnancy, genetic disposition, diabetes, or cysts within the tunnel.
The first step to treatment is to determine the cause and establish any underlying issues, for example your work tasks. A review of your work station may establish improvements that could be made to your environment, and regular breaks could be recommended as a result. Manual workers may be required to refrain from work which aggravates the condition, and it may be suggested that you wear a wrist support overnight to force the wrist into a neutral position.
Exercises may be prescribed which stretch tight structures that may be affecting the nerve. Other treatments may include ice therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and acupuncture.
Any tightness within the tendons of the wrist may be impacting the median nerve, and so the correct exercises will be important in ensuring the condition does not get worse or spread to other areas of the arm. The exercises will work on the cause of the condition at its base, lessening the affect and the risk of long term damage.