Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when a nerve is pinched in the wrist. This nerve, called the median nerve, is the connection from the brain and spinal cord, down to the finger tips. In patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve is pinched as it passes through the wrist. Because of the compression, the nerve does not function properly.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused when there is pressure in the carpal tunnel that compresses the median nerve, causing the nerve to function improperly. Because the carpal tunnel is surrounded by bone on one side, and an inflexible ligament on the other, if pressure builds, the nerve has nowhere to go. Simply put, in carpal tunnel syndrome the nerve gets squished.
Recently, the computer keyboard has been the target of blame for many patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Whether or not typing causes carpal tunnel syndrome is still controversial, yet it seems appropriate that anyone who spends much time at the computer be familiar with techniques in prevention of this problem. Similarly, other activities that depend on wrist motion such as shop work, weight lifting, and racquet sports have been associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is most common in the middle aged and elderly, with over 80% of patients over 40 years of age. When carpal tunnel syndrome occurs, the median nerve is pinched, and the normal functions (as described above) are impaired.
Problems that can occur in carpal tunnel syndrome include:
People can have a wide variety of carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, but the condition typically causes hand and wrist pain, weakness in specific muscles of the hand, and abnormal sensations including tingling and numbness in specific areas of the hand supplied by the pinched nerve.
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Hand and finger pain
- Tingling sensations of the fingers
- Numbness in the fingers
One common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is that people find shaking the hand often relieves these symptoms. Pain may extend up the arm, and the pain from carpal tunnel syndrome is often worst at night. Often patients find they are awakened at night, and have to shake out their hand to get the tingling in their fingers to resolve.
Other activities including driving and typing can aggravate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Surgical treatments are available and effective in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. The most common procedure is the carpal tunnel release. A carpal tunnel release involves making an incision in the fibrous sheath around the carpal tunnel. By releasing tension in the carpal tunnel, the pressure is removed from the nerve.