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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common hand condition that causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand and wrist. It occurs when too much pressure is applied to the median nerve. The median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel – a narrow passageway at the wrist, along with tendons, bones, and a ligament. The median nerve is one of the major nerves to the hand. It provides sensation and motor function to your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. When the carpal tunnel gets compressed, it pinches the median nerve. This causes carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms

If left untreated, symptoms caused by carpal tunnel syndrome will become more severe as time goes on. It is important to visit a physician when you first begin seeing symptoms. Symptoms will generally be felt more often at night, but symptoms will begin to appear during the day as the carpal tunnel syndrome worsens. 

  • Pain, tingling, and/or numbness in the fingers and/or hand
  • Weakness in the hand
  • Difficulty gripping items or performing delicate motions
  • Tingling or pain that moves up your arm
  • Shock-like sensations in your fingers

Causes 

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by a combination of several different factors. It is more common in older adults, but anyone can be diagnosed with it.

  • Repetition in motions – People who need to perform repetitive hand and wrist motions for extended periods of time are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. For example, an office worker who spends most of their day typing 
  • Wrist injuries – Injuries to the bones in the wrist may affect the carpal tunnel and cause it to put pressure on the median nerve 
  • Inflammation – Swelling in your wrist caused by injuries or other conditions may affect the tendons running through the carpal tunnel and put pressure on the median nerve
  • Pregnancy – Fluid retention is common during pregnancy. When this occurs in the wrist, the swelling may cause the same problem mentioned above.

Treatment 

When treating carpal tunnel syndrome, there are surgical and nonsurgical options. In most cases, nonsurgical treatment will be effective. These include:

  • Wrist splints/braces to prevent bending in your wrists
  • Stopping activities that involve repetitive motions in the hand and wrist
  • Stretches and exercises for your wrist
  • Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling

There are two different types of surgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Open release surgery involves an incision made in the palm and wrist to cut through the ligament in the carpal tunnel. This will enlarge the tunnel, releasing the median nerve.
  • Endoscopic surgery involves the use of a small camera attached to a long, thin tube. The tube is inserted into a small incision made in the wrist. A special knife is then inserted and used to cut the ligament 

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