Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects people who indulge in hobbies or are in professions that keep the wrists immobilized for extended periods of time or use the hands and wrists to perform a series of repetitive motions for long periods.
The carpal tunnel is formed by the bones of the wrists on the bottom, with an inflexible ligament forming the top. Through the middle of this construct runs the median nerve, which carries messages from the brain to fingers, hand, and wrist. When this nerve becomes constricted or pinched from constant pressure, or it gets damaged from repetitive motion, it causes pain, numbness, and tingling whenever the fingers, hand or wrist are moved. This is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of Carpal Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms can vary from individual to individual, but the following are some of the most common
Hand pain: This is most often reported as a pinching kind of pain that radiates out into the palm of the hand from the wrist, and sometimes into the fingers themselves. This can often be mistaken for arthritis pain.
Finger pain: It is usually described as intermittent waves of pain within the tendons of the fingers, not in the joints themselves. Finger pain is often mistaken for arthritis pain, even though the joints themselves are unaffected.
Weakness: The muscles and tendons in the hand seem weak and gripping or holding onto small objects becomes difficult. This will often happen in conjunction with numbness of the fingers, another symptom of this particular condition.
Numbness and Tingling: This is characterized by a sudden loss of sensation in the fingers, and an inability to grip small objects. More often there will be sessions of tingling feelings throughout the wrist and hand, as if circulation had been cut off, then recently returned. Often described as a feeling of pins and needles.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
One of the most frequent causes of carpal tunnel syndrome comes from leaving the wrists lying immobile on a desktop or keyboard for long periods of time while typing. The constant pressure will eventually cause the median nerve to become compressed or pinched because the carpal tunnel itself is rather inflexible, and there is no movement within it under pressure.
Another cause of this condition is repetitive motion. Athletes and manual workers are the most liable to find that they get symptoms of this syndrome by just performing the necessary actions required by their crafts. This usually involves a constant turning of the wrist or flattening of the palms to perform whatever task before them.
The damage that can lead to people finding that they are suffering from this very painful condition can be avoided quite easily using some of the devices which are now available as well as some common sense. For typists and others who rely on keyboards or adding machines for their profession, put some ergonomic wrist support to use to relieve the pressure on your wrists. The use of these will also raise your hands into a more comfortable position, as well as extending the reach of your fingers on the keyboard. This, combined with frequent breaks will prevent damage from occurring.
For those who are risking problems through repetitive motion, then prevention can be as simple as banding any one of many types of wrist brace appliances available for supporting and preserving the flexibility of that joint. Performing simple stretching exercises before, during and after any activity will also help prevent injury to that area.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Arthritis is often diagnosed rather than Carpal Tunnel and this especially since the age group most affected is that of 40 years of age and up. there are two simple tests that your doctor can do to determine whether or not your symptoms are caused by arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
The first test, called Tinel’s Sign, is done by tapping the median nerve along its path through the wrist. A positive result occurs if tapping it causes pain. The second test, known as Phalen’s Sign, is done by pushing the back of your hands together for one minute. Pain indicates that you have been experiencing carpal tunnel symptoms.
Treatment will usually involve anti-inflammatory medications, combined with some physical therapy, depending on the severity of the condition. If these do not help, it is also possible to relieve the pressure on the nerve through surgery.