Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is when the median nerve becomes compressed at the wrist, which may result in numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle atrophy in the hand and fingers.

It is caused by pressure exerted on the median nerve at the point where it passes through the wrist. The median nerve supplies sensation to the thumb-side of the palm, and to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb-side of the ring finger. It also supplies movement to part of the hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is common in people who perform repetitive motions of the hand and wrist, such as typing. When the wrist is poorly positioned, there isn't enough space for the median nerve to travel to the hand.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) might not sound as serious as it seems but it is no laughing matter. Most people, especially those who have general knowledge about the condition, may easily think they are suffering from Carpal Tunnel symptoms at the slight numbness or tingling in their fingers and hands. In fact, there are people who often joke about acquiring Carpal Tunnel syndrome due to the constant strain and repetitive movements on their wrist and hands. What they don't know is that the syndrome can easily lead to debilitating lifestyle changes if not given treatment in a prompt manner.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

It would be hard to understand what carpal tunnel syndrome is all about without understanding the normal circumstance firsthand. Since the syndrome commonly affects the fingers, the hands and the wrist, it is important to discuss these. The normal wrist is surrounded by fibrous tissue, which normally acts as the joint's support leaning towards the joint bone. Between the fibrous tissue and the joint bone lies a small space that is called the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is where the median nerve runs through. When there are diseases and various medical conditions that may cause the carpal tunnel to swell or change in position and shape, the median nerve can become severely irritated, leading to the manifestation of carpal tunnel syndrome. These medical conditions may include but may not be limited to arthritis, obesity, acromegaly, hypothyroidism, tumors, trauma, diabetes mellitus, multiple myeloma and excessive usage of steroids, estrogen and growth hormones.

Diagnosis through Carpal Tunnel Symptoms and Tests

To be able to avoid acquiring permanent damage to the median nerve that lines through the carpal tunnel, it is necessary to implement diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Typically, doctors examine the hands, arms, shoulders and neck, which can help them determine whether the patient's symptoms are merely due to several physical activities or other conditions that may appear similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. The wrist will be thoroughly checked for signs of tenderness, swelling, warmth, and discoloration. Each finger should be tested for sensation, and the muscles at the base of the hand should be examined for strength and signs of atrophy.

Physicians can use specific tests to try to produce the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. In the Tinel test, the doctor taps on or presses on the median nerve in the patient's wrist. The test is positive when tingling in the fingers or a resultant shock-like sensation occurs. The Phalen, or wrist-flexion, test involves having the patient hold his or her forearms upright by pointing the fingers down and pressing the backs of the hands together. The presence of carpal tunnel syndrome is suggested if one or more symptoms, such as tingling or increasing numbness, are felt in the fingers within 1 minute. Doctors may also ask patients to try to make a movement that brings on symptoms.

Often it is necessary to confirm the diagnosis by use of electrodiagnostic tests. In a nerve conduction study, electrodes are placed on the hand and wrist. Small electric shocks are applied and the speed with which nerves transmit impulses is measured. In electromyography, a fine needle is inserted into a muscle, which will help the physician view the muscle's electrical activity on a screen. The amount of electrical activity will be used to determine the extent of the damage on the median nerve. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show the anatomy of the wrist but to date has not been especially useful in diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome. Despite the emerging technological advances in the field of medicine, there is still no existing definitive test that can diagnose CTS with merely one go. The patient needs to undergo various examinations and procedures, coupled with their initial carpal tunnel symptoms, before CTS can finally be diagnosed accurately....Read More about CTS Tests.

Treatment for CTS

The symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome are not easy to undergo, especially for those who are still working to support their family and expenses. For many people holding secretarial jobs and other positions that use wrists and hands, which may mean slower productivity and possibly being handed by the pink slip.

That is why diagnosis and treatment should be done in the early stages of the syndrome before it can progress and become more serious. Carpal tunnel symptoms can be alleviated with various carpal tunnel syndrome treatment methods. First aid treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome includes application of ice on the affected area, a wrist splint to avoid unwarranted movement of the area and rest. Regularly taking Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) is also known to alleviate the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel. Several non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and corticosteroidal medications can also help decrease the numbness and tingling sensation alongside the possible inflammation that may exacerbate the condition. Surgery is also a common option for those who have money to spare for their CTS treatments.

You don't have to let the carpal tunnel symptoms take over your life. Be proactive, be informed and be cooperative with your doctor's treatment plans so you can enjoy your life to the fullest.