Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Median Nerve Entrapment

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve that runs through the wrist. The pressure can be caused by swelling or any condition that makes the channel or tunnel where the nerve runs smaller. Some causes of carpal tunnel include, but are not limited to:

  • Illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism
  • Pregnancy
  • Performing the same wrist movements repeatedly over time

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are straightforward and you may start to notice the onset occurring at night. The symptoms most frequently occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Pain in fingers or hand
  • Pain in arm between hand and elbow

Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome begins with a complete medical history and physical exam. The physical exam will determine if your muscle strength has been compromised due to pressure on the median nerve. Other tests that aid in the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome comprise:

  • Nerve testing – to check the median nerve
  • X-rays – to check for arthritis, dislocated bones, or tumors
  • Ultrasound – to check the size of the median nerve
  • MRI – to determine swelling of the median nerve and circulation of blood through the carpal tunnel, as well as any narrowing that may be present in the carpal tunnel
  • Blood tests – to check for thyroid conditions, rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions

Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Mild symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can be managed at home with much success. Moderating activities with your hands and taking more frequent breaks may be very helpful in reducing the pain. Other treatment options to incorporate are:

  • Regular icing of your wrists for 10 to 15 minutes every hour.
  • Taking NSAIDs to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
  • Wearing a wrist splint to stabilize your wrist at night will take pressure off the median nerve.

The more swiftly you begin these modifications and treatment alternatives the less likely you are to develop long-term damage to the median nerve. Surgery is usually a last resort for carpal tunnel syndrome. It is generally reserved for patients who are in severe pain and are unable to work or do other activities. Some tips to avoid carpal tunnel or to keep your condition under control are:

  • Keeping the wrist in a neutral position while typing
  • Switching hands often for repeated movements
  • Using the hand to hold objects instead of fingers

Taking good care of your wrists and hands will help manage carpal tunnel syndrome and prevent it from worsening.

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