Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition that causes symptoms in your hand or arm. Carpal tunnel symptoms can be quite debilitating and even prevent you from working, doing housework or engaging in your favorite sports or hobbies.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
Carpal tunnel symptoms can include pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in your hand, forearm or wrist. The tingling may feel like your hand has fallen asleep. Symptoms may get worse when you use your hand, especially when you try to grip something or bend your wrist. Your fingers may feel stiff, particularly in the morning. These symptoms may even wake you up at night. Shaking your hand or moving your fingers may ease symptoms.
You may experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome when you do simple movements with your hand, such as combing your hair, using a screwdriver or holding a spoon. You may drop things accidentally.
The Underlying Cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and its Symptoms
Carpal tunnel syndrome is essentially a pinched nerve. The median nerve runs from your forearm to your hand through a narrow passageway, known as the carpal tunnel, in your wrist. This nerve provides sensation to the palm side of your thumb and fingers, except for your little finger. The median nerve also carries the brain signals that tell the muscles at the base of your thumb to move. Crowding, pinching or irritating the median nerve causes the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
A combination of factors usually contributes to the development of carpal tunnel symptoms and its symptoms by causing pressure against the median nerves and tendons inside the carpal tunnel. Symptoms are usually the result of pressure to the nerve, rather than the result of actual damage to the median nerve. Tendons lying near the median nerve can become irritated and inflamed; swelling inside the carpal tunnel presses against the median nerve to cause symptoms. The National Institutes of Health says that some people simply have smaller carpal tunnels, making them more susceptible to developing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Other factors, such as wrist injury, pituitary gland or thyroid problems, arthritis, work stress, cysts or tumors, repeated use of certain hand tools and wrist joint problems can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome too.
If you have carpal tunnel symptoms, make an appointment with a hand doctor. A hand specialist may recommend non-surgical treatments, such as drugs to ease pain and swelling, exercises and alternative therapies. Hand surgery, known as carpal tunnel release, is one of the most common procedures in the United States and is very effective at addressing the underlying cause of carpal tunnel syndrome and easing carpal tunnel symptoms.