By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 10 June 2021
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common progressive nerve condition that affects the hand and wrist. It typically causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand’s thumb and first three fingers. The condition is commonly associated with repetitive hand and wrist movements as part of work, sport, or hobby.
While anyone can develop carpal tunnel syndrome, the prevalence is higher amongst women and mostly occurs between the age of 30 and 60 years. People with mild symptoms of the condition are effectively treated with splints, medications, or self-management techniques. However, severe cases may require a simple surgical procedure.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in the wrist made up of eight small wrist bones. The median nerve is one of the major nerves of the forearm and hand. It enables movement and provides sensation to the palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger (towards the thumb). This median nerve enters the hand through the carpal tunnel. The tendons that help to bend the thumb and fingers also pass through the carpal tunnel. However, the tissues surrounding the tendons called the synovium may swell due to the repetitive use of hands. This swelling within the carpal tunnel may lead to compression or squeezing of the median nerve causing carpal tunnel syndrome.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome begin gradually and can appear in one or both hands. Many people may not even notice the symptoms in the initial stages as they are not felt when using the hands, instead, they appear when the hand is at rest, during the night.
In the early stages, people with carpal tunnel syndrome often wake up from sleep with numbness in their hands and they find relief on shaking their hands.
Day time symptoms as the condition progresses
Constant symptoms when carpal tunnel syndrome worsens
Activities that involve repetitive use of fingers and certain motions increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:
Other factors involved include:
The doctor primarily reviews the pattern of symptoms and performs a physical examination.
Physical examination includes:
Other tests include X-rays to rule out other conditions such as arthritis and nerve tests to determine the function of the median nerve.
In the early stages, carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated by taking simple steps such as:
In the case of mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, a combination of non-surgical modalities is recommended that include:
Surgery may be recommended in the case of severe symptoms or if the condition does not respond to other treatments. The procedure involves easing compression on the nerves in the carpal tunnel.
As carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with a modern lifestyle involving sedentary habits and extensive computer use, it is important to understand the early signs. Carpal tunnel syndrome can progress and worsen if neglected, interfering with normal daily activities. Hence, it is vital to consult the doctor as soon as the symptoms develop. Though one cannot always prevent the condition, certain lifestyle modifications can help, particularly in people whose everyday activities are related to a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. It is essential to take frequent rest breaks, stretch, change positions, maintain correct posture and wrist position.
For any questions on musculoskeletal health, you can talk to an orthopaedician.
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