The eight bones of your wrist form a U-shaped channel that houses several tendons and your median nerve. This channel is named the carpal tunnel. Your median nerve is responsible for feeling on the palm side of your first 3 ½ fingers.
Compression or inflammation of this nerve as it progresses through the carpal tunnel can create the condition recognized as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). CTS is the most prevalent nerve entrapment and impacts 3-5% of the general population. Females are affected two or three times more often than males. Carpal tunnel syndrome most regularly affects adults age 45-60.
CTS can be produced by increased wrist flexion and/or repeated wrist movements like supermarket scanning, keyboard use, carpentry or assembly line work. Exposure to vibration or cold may also worsen the condition significantly.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is more common in your dominant hand but usually affects both hands. Some risk factors for developing CTS include diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, kidney disease and being short or overweight. Fluid holding during pregnancy is a well-known instigator of carpal tunnel symptoms.
Symptoms of CTS include numbness, tingling or pain on the palm side of your thumb, index, middle finger and half of your ring finger. The discomfort can sometimes extend towards your elbow. The symptoms usually begin as nighttime distress or waking up with numb hands but can advance to constant irritation. Your symptoms are likely exacerbated by gripping activities like reading the paper, driving or painting. Early on, your symptoms may be reduced by "shaking your hands out". You may sometimes feel as though your hands are tight or swollen. In more critical cases, hand weakness can develop.
Squeezing your median nerve in the carpal tunnel is often followed by compression at a second or third site as well. Researchers describe this "double crush syndrome." Standard "double crush" partners for CTS include the spine or muscles in your neck, shoulder and forearm.
To help resolve your health, you should remove yourself from activities that involve repeated wrist flexion, i.e. pushups. Grasping the handlebars on your bicycle will likely cause stress on your condition. Our office may suggest a special splint that holds your wrist in a neutral or somewhat extended position that will help with your nighttime symptoms.
If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can create permanent nerve damage. The American Academy of Neurology suggests conservative treatment, like the type presented in our office, before examining surgical alternatives.