What Is It?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a painful condition in which the median nerve in the hand is compressed. There are eight carpals in the hand that form the carpal tunnel. The median nerve and nine flexing tendons pass through this confined space. The median nerve provides sensation to the thumb, index and middle finger. It occurs due to swelling of the median nerve and the tendons in the hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused due to undue strain on the wrist. This leads to compression and entrapment of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. Thickening of the ligaments in the carpal tunnel can also lead to this condition. It is common in people who subject their hands to too much strain. Activities like prolonged working on the computer, cutting, needlework, golfing and playing the violin may lead to this debilitating condition. Other health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, hormonal disorders like menopause and diabetes are common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can affect one or both the hands. The initial symptoms appear when the patient is trying to sleep. The first warning signs are usually pain, tingling, numbness and soreness in the hands. These characterize a condition called paresthesia. The fingers feel swollen, even though there might be no apparent evidence of swelling. Patients experience weakness and feeling of clumsiness. In some cases, the pain and discomfort may radiate to the entire arm. There is also difficulty in gripping things.
Initial treatment includes a conservative approach. This includes anti-inflammatory drugs such as Motrin IB, Aspirin, Anacin and Advil that reduce swelling and pain. These drugs can be purchased without a prescription. In case of further persistence of the symptoms, cortisone injections are advised. Heat and Cold therapy can help reduce the pain temporarily. Massage therapy and neuromuscular therapy are effective in reducing the discomfort. Physical therapies help avoid or delay surgery. Wrist splints and braces also help in reducing the symptoms of the disorder. More advanced and persistent cases would require surgery. The carpal tunnel release procedure is widely practiced.
Though carpal tunnel syndrome is a debilitating disorder, the choice of the correct line of treatment can effectively cure it. It is necessary to reduce excess strain on the affected hand and to protect the joints from injury.