What Causes Carpal Tunnel?
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder characterized by pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand and arm. The disorder happens when the median nerve, which is the main nerve in the hand, is constricted where it goes through the wrist.
How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Begin?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when pressure is placed on the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel into the hand. The carpal tunnel is a narrow opening into the wrist surrounded by carpal bones.
What Are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- A sensation of tingling, numbness, burning, or pain in the thumb and first three fingers
- Shocking sensations that travel to the thumb and first three fingers
- Tingling or discomfort that moves from the forearm to the shoulder
- Inability to perform fine motor skills
- Hand weakness that leads to dropping items and losing your awareness of where your hand is in relation to objects (proprioception)
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually start gradually. Some patients report that their symptoms come and go, but later the symptoms usually become more persistent.
Who is at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome usually only affects adults. Your chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome will be higher due to the following:
- Heredity- Your family may have a smaller carpal tunnel than average.
- Gender- Women are three times more likely than men to have the condition, possibly due to women having smaller carpal tunnels in general.
- Repetitive movement- Jobs and hobbies that involve making the same wrist movements over time can make the median nerve swell.
- Hand or wrist placement- Jobs and hobbies that make you flex or extend your hands and wrists repeatedly can cause nerve swelling.
- Other health conditions- Having diabetes, arthritis, or thyroid disorders increase your chance of getting carpal tunnel syndrome.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
Your doctor has many different tools to test for carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:
- Physical Tests- A doctor manipulates the hand and wrist to check for a tingling, numbness feeling.
- Electrophysical Tests- These record the nerve signals moving through the hand and arm to determine if the nerve is impaired.
- X-ray- This rules out bone and ligament injuries as a cause for carpal tunnel syndrome.
- MRI- This test can check to see if there’s a problem with the median nerve by itself due to injury or scarring, or if abnormal tissue has formed around the nerve.
- Ultrasound- This test uses sound waves to test for compression of the median nerve.
What Are the Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Many nonsurgical and surgical options are available for treating this condition. Nonsurgical options include:
- Wearing a wrist brace to immobilize the median nerve
- Avoiding repetitive motions
- Performing physical therapy exercises designed to reduce stress on the median nerve
Surgical options include:
- Carpal tunnel release surgery that relieves pressure on the median nerve by increasing the size of the carpal tunnel by cutting a ligament
How Can I Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you’re at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, you can take the following steps at home and at work to lessen your risk:
- Take frequent breaks
- Keep your wrist in the correct position
- Perform stretching exercises
- Wear fingerless gloves to keep your hands warm and more flexible
If you believe you may have symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, make an appointment today with one of our experienced healthcare providers at Park Avenue Medical Professionals in Manhattan. Our doctors have extensive experience in finding treatment options for carpal tunnel.