Carpal tunnel syndrome involves compression of the median nerve inside the carpal tunnel. The condition is quite common among individuals in the late 50s. It is also common among those who are obese and typically runs in families.
What are the indications?
- Pins and needles sensation or tingling or burning is the initial symptom. The index and middle fingers are the first to be affected.
- Pain develops which travels up to the forearm and even up to the shoulder.
- Numbness of the fingers or in any part of the palm which indicates that the condition is getting worse.
- Skin dryness can develop
- Weakness of some muscles in the fingers and/or thumb develops in severe cases. This results to diminished grip and later progress to muscle wasting at the base of the thumb.
The symptoms tend to vary from one individual to another from minor to severe. One or both hands might be affected. The symptoms are likely to come and go initially. In most cases, the symptoms worsen at night time and even disrupt with sleep.
It is important to note that the symptoms can be alleviated by raising the hand up or hanging it down. The wrist can be flicked to provide some relief. Take note that the symptoms can persist all the time if the condition becomes severe.
What are the causes?
- Genetics might play a role.
- Arthritic or bone conditions involving the wrist such as wrist fractures or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Various conditions linked with carpal tunnel syndrome such as obesity, diabetes, pregnancy, menopause and an underactive thyroid.
- The rare causes include unusual growths, cysts and swelling from the tendons or blood vessels that pass through the carpal tunnel.
Management of carpal tunnel syndrome
If the condition is suspected, the wrist should not be overused with excessive wringing, squeezing or gripping. Among those who are overweight, cutting down weight can help. Pain medications are also given to alleviate the pain.
Splinting of the wrist
A removable splint for the wrist is usually recommended as an initial treatment. The objective of the splint is to keep the wrist in a neutral angle without placing any force over the carpal tunnel to allow the nerve to rest. Remember that this can deal with the condition if used for a few weeks. Nevertheless, using the splint at night time is often enough to alleviate the symptoms.
The injection of a steroid into or close to the carpal tunnel is another treatment option. This can provide relief to some individuals but the symptoms might recur after a year in some.
A surgical procedure that slices the ligament over the front of the wrist can ease the pressure in the carpal tunnel.