Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is due to median nerve compression on the upper hand. This median nerve is responsible for sending sensory and motor functions to the thumb, index, and middle fingers, usually the little finger is not affected by this. This syndrome was first described in the mid-1800s and the first surgery to release the carpal tunnel was done in the 1930s. The carpal tunnel is usually present at the opening of the wrist when usually this syndrome occurs when the nerve is compressed or irritated. This can narrow the wrist and it can lead to swelling and inflammation. It is a kind of repetitive stress injury.
There are many symptoms with this syndrome. And these do not show up immediately; they tend to gradually grow over time.
Tingling: You may tend to notice a tingling or numbing sensation especially on your thumb, index, and middle fingers. You may sometimes sense an electric shock being given to your fingers.
This usually appears while using a steering wheel, holding a phone, newspaper; it may also wake you up in the middle of sleep due to intense wrist pain. People sometimes shake their hands to get rid of the feeling.
Weakness: You may experience weakness in your arms, and attending your daily chores may be a bit of a task to you.
In the beginning, shaking up your hands may give you a little relief, but in a longer run the numbness may not seem to fade away.
Carpal Tunnel syndrome is usually caused due to the strain in our hands. Although few factors do not directly develop the syndrome, over time they gradually help in the development of the syndrome. Women are prone to the problem as they have narrow carpal tunnel compared to men.
Anatomical Factors: When there is a fracture or dislocation of the wrist or even joint relation illness like arthritis can pose a risk of getting affected by the syndrome. People with narrow tunnel have high chances of getting affected.
Nerve-Damage: People with chronic health conditions like diabetics, may have a chance to damage the median nerve.
Inflammatory Illness: Rheumatoid arthritis is a kind of inflammatory illness that has an inflammatory compound which can affect the tender lining of your wrist and applies pressure to the nerve.
Medications: Though this requires a lot of research there is part of a study that proves medicine anastrozole (Arimidex) taken by breast cancer patients show a link to the syndrome.
Unhealthy Lifestyle: Unhealthy life habits include over eating of junk and processed food which make you gain unhealthy weight. This condition is called obesity. Being obese can also contribute to the syndrome.
Fluid retention: Excess body fluid retention can create pressure at the carpal tunnel region, irritating the median nerve. This is common during pregnancy and the menopause stage.
Occupational Factors: Work that involves constant use of your typing and use of vibrating machinery without any rest. Use of the hand over and over creates a harmful pressure on the wrist and worsening the syndrome. Though there are studies which contradict these studies. These workplace factors contribute directly for the syndrome development.
Early detection is always the best way to treat the problem. A doctor diagnoses the carpal syndrome in various ways:
Tinels’ Sign: This test is performed by tapping the median nerve to check if it produces any tingling sensation in the fingers.
Wrist flexion test ( Phalen Test): In this test the person is asked to rest his/her elbows on a table and allowed to fall forward freely. Usually tingling/burning sensation is observed within 60 seconds after the free fall. The early sensation depicts the severity of the problem.
X-rays: X-rays may be taken to determine wrist motion or evidence of arthritis.
Also named as nerve conduction studies determine how well the median nerve is functioning.
There are two methods to treat the syndrome: non-surgical and surgical methods. Depending on the severity the method is chosen. If it is detected at an early stage home remedies can treat the illness.
- Usually in this case, doctors provide few instructions to follow:
- Wearing a wrist splint band at night.
- Consuming prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
- Taking cortisone injections.
- Healthy lifestyle changes.
- Taking intervals during work.
- Cold Compress using an ice pack.
- Shifting your computer position is convenient to your arm.
There are few home exercises to over the syndrome:
- Spider Push up on mirror.
- Shake up.
- Wrist Flexor
Surgical methods are recommended when it does not respond to non-surgical methods and home exercises. The main goal of the surgery is to increase the tunnel space in order to decrease the pressure on the nerve and tendons. The space is created through cutting the ligament that covers the carpal tunnel. This ligament is known as the transverse carpal ligament.
In the surgical process, the doctor provides you with a local numbing agent, you will be awake through the whole process. The whole process will be monitored by a healthcare team (called monitored anesthetic care). There will be a mild discomfort for twenty four to seventy two hours of the surgery. Stitches are usually removed after four to six weeks of the surgery. Returning to daily physical activities will be dependent on doctor confirmation. Recovery rate depends on age and physical strength.
How it can be prevented:
Paying attention to minute daily details of using your arm and wrist can reduce the chances. Workstation placement plays a vital role. Few preventive methods that can be followed are:
- Sleeping with wrist positioned straight.
- Keeping the wrist straight while using tools.
- Avoid flexing and extending your wrist frequently.
- Taking sufficient breaks to rest the wrist in between strainful activities.
- In case diagnosed with the carpal tunnel syndrome, following proper precautions and taking care and prescription by the doctor.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can definitely be prevented with the right choices. Follow a healthy lifestyle to stay away from health illness.