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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

by Patty Weasler, RN September 20, 2019 0 Comments

carpal tunnel wrist brace

Have you experienced chronic pain, numbness, or tingling in your hand and arm? Carpal tunnel syndrome can become a major problem, as the median nerve in your wrist becomes pinched or compressed leading to a wide range of complications. Symptoms will only worsen over time, so obtaining a quick diagnosis and seeking treatment is the best way to get a jump start on recovery.

The carpal tunnel is the space at the base of your palm near your wrist that protects the median nerve and is covered by the transverse carpal ligament. The space cannot become larger or stretch, which may lead to nerve compression.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is when this space becomes too small due to swelling or irritation, compressing the median nerve. You will experience pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in your hand.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel

Commonly attributed to bad posture while typing and repetitive motions, many fail to recognize that there are a wide variety of carpal tunnel syndrome causes. Below are some of the most common.

  • Health Conditions

    There are a number of chronic health conditions that can be linked to carpal tunnel syndrome. The most common risk factors are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), diabetes, an overactive pituitary gland, or an underactive thyroid gland.

  • Hand or Wrist Injury

    If you have injured your wrist or hand you are at a higher risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. The swelling from the injury can make the carpal tunnel space smaller, placing more pressure on the median nerve.

  • Heredity

    Experts believe that heredity plays an important part in your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. They have also found that women are three times more likely to develop it. If you are worried about your chances of developing carpal tunnel learn more about your family’s history and talk with your physician.

  • Repetitive Hand Movements

    Carpal tunnel syndrome is more likely to occur in people who work with machinery, assemblers, and others whose job requires frequent repetitive hand movements.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

As the disease progresses, carpal tunnel pain will last longer and worsen during the nighttime. Suffers may notice that symptoms occur when their wrists are flexed, like when holding a phone or driving. See more of the most common symptoms of carpal tunnel below

  • A decreased grip strength
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning in your hand and fingers
  • Unable to feel the difference between hot and cold
  • Shock-like feelings that affect your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.

Carpal Tunnel Diagnosis

No one should suffer from the uncomfortable pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. A visit to your doctor will determine if your symptoms warrant a carpal tunnel syndrome test. After a preliminary evaluation is complete your doctor will complete some of the tests we have listed below.

Tinel Test

This carpal tunnel test is when your doctor presses down on your median nerve in your wrist to see if it causes any tingling or numbness in your fingers. It is often the first step in a comprehensive diagnosis.

Phalen’s Maneuver

Your doctor will have you place the back of your hands and fingers together with your fingers pointed downward in front of your chest. You will press until your wrists are completely flexed. A positive result typically occurs within one to two minutes.

Nerve Conduction Study

During a nerve conduction study, your doctor will send an electrical signal through your nerve. With this test, your doctor will be able to determine the severity of your disease and the type of treatment you need.

Ultrasound

A carpal tunnel ultrasound uses sound waves to provide a visual of your bones and tissues. This picture will allow your doctor to see if there is compression on your median nerve.

X-ray

A carpal tunnel x-ray is a great tool for finding any issues with your bone structure, like a fracture. It can also help your doctor see if you have arthritis or a ligament injury.

MRI

The last carpal tunnel syndrome test is an MRI. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans identify soft tissue causes for compression on your median nerve. It will also show if there is a tumor or scarring from a previous injury.

Carpal Tunnel Treatment

Anyone suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome knows the pain, numbness, and tingling can be debilitating; however there are plenty of non surgical and medical treatments available to help relieve and prevent these symptoms including:

Start by talking with your doctor to formulate the best treatment plan. For more chronic and persistent cases of carpal tunnel, surgery or medication may be necessary. Continue reading our guide on carpal tunnel relief to learn ways you can work to relieve your carpal tunnel symptoms. 

Sources:

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/carpal_tunnel_release_135,29

SHOP CARPAL TUNNEL PRODUCTS
Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.



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