How can you tell if that nagging numbness or pain in your wrist is really Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? The wrist is surrounded by a band of fibrous tissue that serves as a support for the joint. The space between this fibrous tissue and the wrist bone is called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel and receives sensations from the thumb, index, and middle fingers of the hand. Any condition that causes swelling of the tissue within the carpal tunnel can cause pressure on the median nerve.
Common Symptoms Include:
* Numbness or tingling in the thumb and next two or three fingers of the hand
* Numbness or tingling of the palm of the hand
* Pain extending to the elbow
* Pain in wrist or hand
* Problems with fine finger movements (coordination) in the hand
* Wasting of the muscle at the base of the thumb in advanced or chronic cases
* Weak grip or difficulty carrying bags (a common complaint)
* Weakness in the hand
Common Causes Include:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is common in people who perform repetitive motions of the hand and wrist. Typing on a computer keyboard is probably the most common cause of Carpal Tunnel. Other causes include:
* Assembly line work
* Use of tools (especially hand tools or tools that vibrate)
* Sports such as racquetball or handball
* Playing some musical instruments
To accurately diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, your doctor will perform tests that may include:
* Electromyography (EMG)
* Nerve conduction velocity
* Wrist x-rays to rule out other problems (such as wrist arthritis).
Symptoms often improve with non-surgical treatment, but some cases eventually require surgery.
Is Your Hand Numbness Due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Avoid or reduce the number of repetitive wrist movements whenever possible, and use tools and equipment that are properly designed to reduce the risk of wrist injury.
Ergonomic aids, such as split keyboards, keyboard trays, typing pads, and wrist braces, may improve wrist posture during typing. Take frequent breaks when typing and always stop if there is tingling or pain.
Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is usually Non-Surgical.
When your occupation aggravates the symptoms, you should modify your activities. Periodic resting and range of motion stretching exercises of the wrists can prevent the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome if they are caused by repetitive overuse.
Obese individuals may find that weight reduction improves their condition.
Efforts should be taken to reduce wrist swelling. Therefore, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful in decreasing inflammation and reducing pain. Additionally, corticosteroids can be injected directly into the affected wrist joint to provide symptom relief.
Most patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome improve with conservative measures and medications. However, occasionally, chronic pressure on the median nerve can result in persistent numbness and weakness of the hand. When carpal tunnel syndrome becomes chronic, you may need to consider surgical treatment in order to avoid permanent nerve damage and muscle wasting.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your physician to learn more about this condition and ways to treat it.
©2011 Winifred Bragg, MD. All Rights Reserved.